16th Biennale of Sydney (2008)

Revolutions – forms that turn

18 June – 7 September 2008
Artistic Director: Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev

Artistic Director Foreword

First published on the occasion of the 16th Biennale of Sydney (2008) in the exhibition catalogue titled ‘Revolutions – froms that turn’ edited by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.

The impulse to revolt. Revolving, rotating, mirroring, repeating, reversing, turning upside down or inside out, changing perspectives. The 16th Biennale of Sydney is a constellation of historical and contemporary works of art that celebrate and explore these dynamics, both in art and life. Through installations, performances, films, texts, an evolving online venue, conversations and other events, Revolutions – Forms That Turn articulates the agency embedded in forms that express our desire for change. Such literal and formal devices are charted for their broader aesthetic, psychological, radical and political perspectives.

In politics, ‘revolution’ is a term often considered obsolete, ominous and associated with violence – abrupt and sudden change is seen as impossible or dangerous. We are told that change can only occur as a series of micro-changes or through evolution, not revolution. The idea of revolution has become a lifestyle choice, co-opted into the latest software upgrade. The history of the word ‘revolution’, however, reveals its ambivalent and paradoxical nature. To revolve means to turn twice (re-volvere), to follow a curvature around and return to where one began – an ecological movement.

The ‘space’ explored by this exhibition is the gap between the first part of the title – revolutions – which suggests a directly political and content-based exhibition, and the subsequent phrase – forms that turn – which alternatively suggests the autonomy and isolation of the art object, spinning on its own and detached from daily life, or the energy and potential latent in forms themselves (turns that form). The first term collapses (is overturned) into the second and within that gap perspective suddenly shifts, as when a joke is understood – causing unexpected laughter, a release of tension and a collapse into the comic dimension of radical and absolute presence. It is a space of rotation, confusion, revolt, insubordination, anarchy and disruption of order, a space of ‘revolution’.