out and about

21st biennale of sydney

For someone who was born and bred in Sydney, I really haven’t seen much of it at all. That probably explains why Biennale has always seemed to evade me, despite being in it’s 21st edition already! The major art festival is held every two years, and spans numerous locations across the city. From Cockatoo Island to the MCA and Carriageworks, it’s kinda like a giant scavenger hunt. That’s what it felt like racing against time to check out all the artworks, anyway!

I was determined for 2018 to be the year I finally made it to Biennale, so that’s exactly what I did. This time around it was curated by Mami Kataoka, the chief curator at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. There seemed to be a huge focus on Asian art, so I was especially keen to check it out. Besides, I’ll take any excuse I can to go for a ferry ride on Sydney’s gorgeous harbour. I mean, check out that view:

We first came across this installation, which was pretty intriguing. Every six minutes, a sheet denoting the day, month and year was ejected from a printer mounted high above. The calendar starts with the opening date of the exhibition, and ends with its conclusion in 2071. I did manage to see a sheet of paper as it was floating through the air, but was too slow to catch a photo!

Ai Wei Wei’s Law of the Journey was a bold statement on refugees’ human rights. At over sixty metres long, the inflatable boat was crowded with hundreds of faceless refugee figures. Not to mention, the rubber was manufactured in the same factory as boats used by refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. I really wanted to touch the side of it, and accidentally said it out loud… much to the dismay of the volunteer who happened to be standing right behind me, haha!


Despite reminding me of the golden egg from Harry Potter, this artwork was actually supposed to reference the supermoon and human fascination with the cosmos. It was pretty impressive to see in person – the artist’s plans were also on display, and he had meticulously calculated the dimensions required to create this sculpture.


If I had to pick my favourite of the day, it would definitely be Yukinori Yanagi, a contemporary artist from Hiroshima. One of his works involved a giant glass eye suspended inside a control room, reflecting catastrophic events as seen by onlookers. In the next room was a life-sized replica of Little Boy, aka the atomic bomb. Despite being a copy I felt unsettled just standing next to it, but I guess that’s the whole point. With everything going on in the world right now, it’s more important than ever to look to our past so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Unrelated, but wouldn’t Cockatoo Island be an epic place to have a giant game of hide-and-seek? Imagine all the possibilities!

Yukinori’s other work was inside a darkened cargo container, and sadly I have no good pictures of it! Basically, it was a giant image of the sun followed by a maze of mirrors. Even as you delved further into the maze, the sun was always visible through the mirrors behind you. The whole thing was inspired by the tale of Icarus, who fell to his death when he flew too close to the sun and melted his wings. It’s a metaphor that warns about the consequences of human obsession with development and technology, especially when you consider his other works at Biennale.

Over at the MCA, this artwork by Nicole Wong was another favourite of mine. This one featured the top-ten Google search results for specific phrases, all engraved in marble. The results are weirdly poetic, and comforting – a reminder that millions of strangers across the internet share the same worries and concerns, for the most part.

From afar these works looked like fabric, but upon closer inspection they were actually a lot of tiny beads strung together. Pretty mind blowing, if you ask me! With three whole walls dedicated to it, I can’t imagine how much time and labour went into this.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to check out all the sites, so this post could’ve been a lot longer than it already is. Nonetheless, I’m so glad I finally got around to checking out Biennale! There’s something about looking at art that’s so therapeutic. I’m someone who spends a lot of time in my own head, so seeing the world from other people’s perspectives is always refreshing.