The title of the 20th Biennale of Sydney, The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed, is inspired by a comment made by leading science fiction author, William Gibson. Serving as an investigatory framework, the phrase reminds us that access to information, the Internet, and other more basic resources is by no means universal; many people are denied the opportunity to benefit from (or participate in) these new spaces where information can be exchanged. The conditions of uneven distribution are not inevitable, however; they are largely the result of historical and current geopolitics and economic power structures. As we have seen with the influx of political refugees, not just into Australia, but internationally and notably in Europe, one consequence of this uneven distribution is social upheaval on a scale unprecedented in recent world history.
Hosting texts, images and video, the Not Evenly Distributed blog seeks to focus on the second part of this phrase, ‘just not evenly distributed’, extending the project beyond the exhibition and the catalogue. Continuing the idea of a process-led, artist-centric Biennale, which is developing over time, this project will be published for eight weeks, and will conclude on 30 June 2016.
Concept: Stephanie Rosenthal
Managing Editor: Nadine Monem
Commissioning Editor: Robert Maharajh
Talks & Events
Alongside the blog, talks and events in Sydney take up the series focus. Not Evenly Distributed @ the Embassy of Non-Participation has been conceived to initiate conversations around the 20th Biennale’s theme on a local level, driven by this Embassy’s focus on the potential of non-participation and with guests invited by Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, the Biennale and Artspace. Together with invited guests from varied fields, the series aims to consider questions of agency and access broadly: to information, the internet and other more basic resources, including safety/freedom and rights. What historical and current geopolitical and economic structures contribute to conditions of uneven distribution today? What does it mean when both the UN and technology companies like Facebook claim internet access as a fundamental right? And as Jelena Petrović asks in one of the conversations collected in the 20th Biennale catalogue, what does non-participation mean if we don’t have a right to decide about our position? Is non-participation a choice at all?
As part of this series, for the first month of the Biennale (to 10 April), the Ideas Platform at Artspace will be occupied by projects and programs that explore related concepts and ideas, beginning with an open reading group facilitated by Karen Mirza and Brad Butler over two days. Participants will delve into Silvia Federici’s formative 2004 study, Caliban and the Witch, which examines the body in transition from feudalism to capitalism.
Cultural partners from around the world are also invited to commission their own contributions to this theme, with the possibility that they be added to the 20th Biennale website and blog.
Reading Group: Caliban and the Witch
22–23 March, 3–6 pm each day
Ideas Platform, Artspace
Over two days, Karen Mirza and Brad Butler facilitate an open reading group that delves into Silvia Federici’s formative 2004 study, Caliban and the Witch: an examination of the body in transition from feudalism to capitalism.
Deep Dirt Collective: You Will Not Be Easily Erased
23 March–10 April, during gallery hours
Ideas Platform, Artspace
You Will Not Be Easily Erased is a collaboration by artists Idil Abdullahi, Nicole Barakat, Salwa El-Shaikh, Zeina Iaali, Priya Panchalingam, Samia Sayed and Samara Shehata. A collaborative installation that unfolds, evolves and is re-written throughout its duration, it pays homage to the persistence of ancestral lineages of seven women artists of colour through an experimental, collaborative, live work installation.
The work re-examines ideas around identity, migration and colonialism through personal and collective narratives. The artists will activate the space over a period of two weeks, engaging with place through processes of listening and responding. A temporal material archive/palimpsest will be created (and re-created) as the space bears witness to the traces left behind.
We create this work as a ritual that reassesses presumptions, honours our living cultures and ensures our/their survival. — Deep Dirt Collective
Talk: Technology’s Refuge @ the Embassy for Non-Participation: from apathy to active protest
12 May, 7-8 pm
Level 2 Seminar Room, Artspace
What does it mean to ‘participate’ online? Does it mean being an active and engaged Netizen, or does watching the occasional cat video count? Leung ponders the diverse technology landscape in which we now live and asks whether it is possible to amble or cycle down the ‘information superhighway’. Let’s wander around the notion of ‘digital divides’ and how they frame those for who need or want to take alternative journeys. We will explore issues of availability, access and affordability; and visit issues of device discrimination, where consumers are now subject to prejudicial treatment based on their technology of choice. Is this part of the post-human condition, where the subaltern is a technologised subject and marginalisation is a matter of platforms and operating systems, rather than class, ethnicity, gender or sexuality?
Linda Leung is Associate Professor in Arts, Cultural and Digital Creative Industries at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is currently working on her third book Technologies of Refuge: Rethinking Digital Divides, which is a culmination of her research on the design of available, accessible and affordable technology products and services for marginalised communities such as refugees.
Lectures & panel discussion: Building the future now – Sustainable architecture vs. globalisation
19 May, 6–8.30 pm
Italian Cultural Institute, Level 4, 125 York Street, Sydney
Architects Mario Cucinella (Italy) and Ken McBryde (Australia) present two lectures titled “Creative Empathy” as part of the Not Evenly Distributed series, in association with the Italian Cultural Institute in Sydney. The talks explore how architecture through sustainability principles can act against a model of working that is indifferent to place, refusing to flatten out difference through globalising narratives and economic-quantitative value systems (Cucinella), and how technology and communications can open up opportunities in education in remote areas of the world, with case studies in Borneo, Nepal and Vanuatu showing the benefit of culturally appropriate teaching facilities (McBryde). Tshering Lama O’Gorman, Program Director of the Australian Himalayan Foundation joins a panel discussion following the lectures, moderated by Janne Ryan, ideas curator, writer and producer of the ABC Radio National program By Design.
Talk: Beyond the Asylum: a way forward for Australia’s approach to refugees
1 June, 6–7.30 pm
Level 2 Seminar Room, Artspace
Abdul Karim Hekmat and Tim O’Connor discuss the impacts of Australia’s approach to people seeking asylum, exploring the current policy settings and sharing the personal experience of seeking asylum, enduring and surviving Australian immigration detention.
Abdul Karim Hekmat is freelance journalist and photographer. He arrived as a refugee from Afghanistan in 2001 and spent five months in detention in Australia. Since graduating with honours from UTS under a temporary protection visa scheme, Abdul has written for many media outlets in Australia about refugees and asylum seekers. In 2012, he was awarded UTS Alumni Community Award and was recognised as a Refugee Ambassador in 2013. He is a board member of Refugee Council of Australia.
Tim O’Connor works at the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), the peak body for organisations working with and for refugees and people seeking asylum. RCOA is a not-for-profit organisation and relies on public financial support to continue its vital work in research, education and advocacy.
This event is a part of the Not Evenly Distributed series for the 20th Biennale of Sydney, conceived as an opportunity for a timely international discussion about the uneven spread of technologies and resources in the world, access to citizenship and political rights today, and the uses and effects of digital technologies in different geographical, political and social contexts. The series at Artspace has been made possible with assistance from UNSW Art & Design.
Premiere screening & discussion: Wutharr, Saltwater Dreams by the Karrabing Film Collective
4 June, 2–3 pm
Domain Theatre, Art Gallery of New South Wales
Across a series of flashbacks, an extended indigenous family argues about what caused their boat’s motor to break down and leave them stranded out bush. As they consider the roles played in the incident by the ancestral present, the regulatory state and the Christian faith, Wutharr: Saltwater Dreams explores the multiple demands and inescapable vortexes of contemporary indigenous life.
The Karrabing Film Collective is a grassroots Indigenous based media group, who use filmmaking as a means of self-organisation and social analysis. Shot by Karrabing members on iPhones, Wutharr, Saltwater Dreams (2016) is the collective’s new film and the third in the Karrabing Intervention Trilogy, premiering at the Biennale and forming part of a larger film and media project that was recently recognised with the 2015 Visible Award: a European award for socially engaged artistic practices in a global context.
A discussion with members of the collective will take place after the ca. 30 min screening.
The Not Evenly Distributed blog and Not Evenly Distributed @ the Embassy of Non-Participation has been made possible with assistance from UNSW Art & Design.