Exhibition Overview

The 20th Biennale of Sydney, inspired by a quote from leading science fiction author William Gibson, is titled The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed. This edition of the Biennale will be presented at seven main venues conceived as ‘embassies of thought’. (An embassy traditionally functions as a state within a state: a host country characteristically allows the embassy control of a specific territory, a system that enables the occupation and creation of new spaces in other lands.) It is this metaphor we are looking to develop when thinking about the themes for the Biennale and Sydney. Understood more as temporary settings rather than fixed locales – places as transient homes for constellations of thought – the embassies are: Cockatoo Island (Embassy of the Real); Art Gallery of New South Wales (Embassy of Spirits); Carriageworks (Embassy of Disappearance); Artspace (Embassy of Non-Participation); Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (Embassy of Translation); and a bookshop (Embassy of Stanislaw Lem). For the first time a former train station used solely for funerary purposes, Mortuary Station (Embassy of Transition) will be a Biennale venue.

Artistic Director Stephanie Rosenthal said: ‘If each era posits its own view of reality, what is ours? One of the key ideas this Biennale explores is how the common distinction between the virtual and the physical has become ever more elusive. The embassies are inspired by the unique locations and individual histories of the venues; they will provide safe spaces for thinking that convene for the three-month duration of the Biennale. A focus on ‘in-between spaces’ is key: in terms of our interaction with the digital world, the blurred boundaries between art forms and the interconnection between politics and financial power structures.’