18th BIENNALE OF SYDNEY 2012
All Our Relations
Just a twenty minute ferry ride away from Circular Quay, Sydney Harbour stands the deserted Cockatoo Island.
Once inhabited by Australia’s most lawless inmates and later used as a shipyard, Biennale of Sydney took over this concrete island to exhibit work by our worlds most acclaimed and rising contemporary and innovative artists.
Words © Mel Fletcher
Apart from feeling like you have stumbled upon the film set of Shutter Island the most exciting aspect of Cockatoo Island was the audience inclusion the installations shared with the viewer. From climbers-cords obstacle courses to touch sensitive kinetic architecture, All Our Relations, 18th Biennale of Sydney makes you feel like a giddy kid in a discovery playground.
Upon arrival there was no real indication of where to start. Filled with what appears empty concrete shells of buildings and steel outhouses you are handed a map and off you go!
Hylozoic Series: Sibyl, 2011 by Philip Beesley
Image © Mel Fletcher
The River – Preliminary Sketch, 2011
Ocean of Flowers, 2012
Living with Cuddles, 2012
Rehearsing Catastrophe, 2012
Snow Balls Blind Time, 2008 by Peter Robinson
Image © Mel Fletcher
Entering Dog Leg Tunnel (a manmade shortcut that lead through the middle of Cockatoo Island) I came across the work of Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde. Like any other tunnel it was almost pitch black trying to manoeuvre my way through to the other side. I could hear snippets of noise which I could only describe as mechanical crickets chirping with clicks and twitches. Curious to venture around the bend I came across Roosegaarde’s Dune 2007-11 – long poles positioned like sporadic plant life or like a swarm of fireflies nesting on the reeds and talking to one another with flashes of light. The sounds I heard before mimicked the flickering lights in delay, both sound and light chasing one another down to the end of the cave like an echo. The lights and sounds majestically led me to the end of the tunnel, away from dreamworld and back into reality.
Personally I found the creme de la creme of Sydney’s 18th Biennale was installation/ sculpture/ mechanical genius by Architect Philip Beesley. Hylozoic Series: Sibyl, 2011 explores the fascinating concept of kinetic architecture. Approaching the artwork was a mystical experience, trying to make sense of this huge shipment container-sized concoction of transparent materials; feathers, glass, plastic tubing, and deflated balloons. Although overpowering in size the structure seemed fragile and organic, and something I was at first reluctant to touch. Encouraged by a small toddler full heartedly slapping the suspended ‘dangly bits'(my Fine Art degree coming in handy here), curiosity got the better of me and I went in for a feel. Almost instantly from the softest stroke the ‘dangly bits’ vibrated intensely. Now the shudders caused the other materials to respond in unison; the large feathers opened like a blooming flower and the bulb chamber filled with yellow matter began to illuminate.
Philip Beesley | Hylozoic Series: Sibyl, 2011
Image © Mel Fletcher
Although artificial in materials you can’t help but feel connected to Philip Beesley’s “living system”. Like sea coral gently swaying in the ocean reef, the Architect’s work both behaves naturally to its environment as well as reacting to human touch. Never have I seen an artwork that beautifully mimics all the wonderful phenomena of our natural world. If being involved in the installation wasn’t restricted to a limited amount of time I could have spent all day indulging in it.
Like all Biennales you can’t see everything in one day. It was a great shame I only had one day to spare in Sydney, missing the other galleries included in the 18th Biennale; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Pier 2/3 along the pristine and beautiful Sydney Harbour. But it was a day well spent!
Article written by Mel Fletcher
Text © Mel Fletcher 2012
Images © Mel Fletcher
Artistic Directors – Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster