Biennale of Sydney
Be part of the action at Sydney’s premiere contemporary art festival with these six participatory works.
MAMI KATAOKA, ARTISTIC director of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (March 16-June 11), enjoys participatory art as much as anyone. But it has to be an experience that is more than “one-off fun,” she says. “Often, people see a participatory work and as soon as they leave the museum they forget it. I need a little bit more than that.” Kataoka has programmed immersive, large-scale, participation-driven artworks across the city. Here she takes you on a tour of the works in which you can get your hands dirty, raise the rafters with your voice and smack your frustrations out of the ballpark. And yes, there will be plenty to think about afterwards. 1 Marco Fusinato A musician as well as an artist, Melbourne’s Marco Fusinato invites visitors to Carriageworks to pick up a baseball bat and pummel a colossal white wall – just once. Microphones embedded in the wall then transmit the vibrations to amplifiers, which beef up the impact to a resounding 120db throughout the gallery space. “It’s an extraordinary sound,” says Kataoka. “But what does it mean in an art space? To me, it’s like throwing a chunk of rock into the ocean. But it’s also an interesting metaphor for the anger and anxiety everyone feels in contemporary life. ” 245 Wilson St, Eveleigh 2015. 2 Yasmin Smith Sydney-based ceramicist Yasmin Smith will install a large-scale participatory work in what was once a timber-drying shed on Cockatoo Island. It’s an ambitious project involving a kiln and a salt farm. Using materials gathered from the island and salt from the surrounding water, Smith will create a forest of ceramic tree branches. The public contributes by offering their labour to the production of clay vessels for salt harvesting, Kataoka explains. “I think ceramics is a very important thing to understand because it embodies so much human history and how we use natural elements: earth and water made into some kind of form using fire. It is how our civilisation was formed.” Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour 2039. 3 Ciara Phillips Canadian artist Ciara Phillips will establish a working printmaking studio at the Museum of Contemporary Art and will invite community groups to work alongside her to produce new artworks. “It is looking at the nature of printing itself,” Kataoka says. “Printmaking is so important in the history of multiplying images and text and distributing them to the world … For Ciara, printmaking is about giving a voice to people and speaking out about something.” à 140 George St, The Rocks 2000. 4 Jacob Kirkegaard Danish artist Jacob Kirkegaard’s 2013 work ‘Through the Wall’ asks viewers to contemplate both sides of the barrier separating Israelis and Palestinians. “It is a wall built in the
MCA gallery space with sound contained inside – sounds recorded from both sides of the wall in Palestine,” Kataoka says. “It’s an interesting idea, experiencing both sides of the wall. Normally we see only one side.” Among the sounds are overlapping conversations, about issues including land ownership and forms of governance. 140 George St, The Rocks 2000. 5 Oliver Beer British-born and now Beirut-based performance artist Oliver Beer will set the Sydney Opera House ringing with one of his Resonance Projects, a performanceinstallation in which the human voice is used to stimulate architectural spaces to resound at their natural frequencies. “We wanted to go back to the Sydney Opera House because
it’s where the Biennale started in 1973,” says Kataoka. “Oliver is one of those genius people who can find a resonating tone of the space. It’s like ringing a wine glass. You can do the same thing with architecture.” The Resonance Project will take place in one of the Opera House’s usually inaccessible-to-the-public areas, and the performance limited to the ten people invited to participate. Bennelong Point, Sydney 2000. 6 Akira Takayama In one case, the participatory element will have occurred long before the artwork is shown. On January 28, Japanese artist and filmmaker Akira Takayama invited Sydneysiders to sing songs to their ancestors from a hanamichi, a wooden bridge traditionally part of a Kabuki theatre set. More than 70 people took part in the Sydney Town Hall event, singing in languages including Gadigal, Yiddish, Arabic and Dutch. “Akira says the origin of Kabuki is related to the immigration of people to other communities,” Kataoka says. “We had close to 40 different languages. It is amazing to see how diverse the culture is in Sydney, and it’s so beautiful how those cultures coexist.” The finished work will be a film, The Sydney Kabuki Project, screened at 4A Centre for
Contemporary Asian Art in Haymarket. “It is an epic of the entire 20th century,” says Kataoka. “I like to think what we see in Akira’s work is a microcosm of the history of the whole world.” 181-187 Hay St, Haymarket 2000. www.biennaleofsydney.art. Mar 16-Jun 11.
Marco Fusinato ‘Constellations’
Jacob Kirkegaard ‘Through the Wall’