The 18th Biennale of Sydney opens (a taste of what’s to come for Moscow?)

Jonathan Jones, untitled (oysters and tea cups), 2011

Yesterday, the 18th Biennale of Sydney opened, perhaps giving some hints as to what Moscow can expect next year, when curator Catherine de Zegher takes charge of the Moscow Biennale.

De Zegher – as we noted, currently Guest Curator at MoMA’s Drawings Department – co-curated the Australian biennale with Gerald McMaster, a former employer at the National Museum of the American Indian, who now serves as curator of Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario. His curatorial and writing career reflects his strong interest in Native American art, while his own artistic practice explores his Plains Cree and Blackfoot heritage.

Eva Kot’átková, Educational Model, 2009. Image courtesy the artist; hunt kastner artworks, Prague; and Meyer Riegger, Karlsruhe. Photograph: Eva Kot’átková

Heritage is but one cornerstone in the exhibition – not ambitiously titled “all our relations” – which brings the work of over 100 artists from 44 countries to three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, and – in a strange overlap with other island-themed events of late – Cockatoo Island (a chirpy-name for what used to be a prison site. Unless, of course, “cockatoo” is some kind of Australian innuendo.)

With a roster so insistently “global” (in the best 1990’s sense of the word), it’s tempting to read “all our relations” as a kind of family tree endeavor.  In the press release, de Zegher does not manage to shed more light on the title, but she does serve up a nice e-flux smoothie:

‘all our relations concerns a global movement of art and thought that has been under the radar and now emerges as radical and dynamic, bringing forward significant change. From the collaborations and juxtapositions emerge powerful and wholly new ideas, a truly global proposal of what art is and what it does in society. The 18th Biennale of Sydney connects absolutely local issues, the most intimate meanings of place and time, with great currents of art and thought that are linking lives as though in conversation. This is the groundbreaking premise of all our relations.’

While the use of the adjective “groundbreaking” is questionable, there is no debating that the curators have brought together a formidable roster. Among these artists are Baibakov alum Latifa Echakhch, Future Generation Prize nominee Eva Kotatkova, and Hassan Sharif,  along with a number of artists (including Nicholas Hlobo and Bouchra Khalili) currently participating in “Intense Proximity,” this year’s edition of the Paris Triennale that likewise investigates international relations in a “postcolonial” world. (NB: That set of quotes is intended to convey the skepticism the curators invest in that word, not because it’s a term we’re dropping for the first time.)

As a trip down under may not be in our cards this summer, we look forward to reading first hand accounts of those who do get to experience this exhibition.

The Biennale will be on view until September 16, 2012 . For more information, check the website.

Cal Lane, Domesticated Turf, 2012. Installation view of the 18th Biennale of Sydney (2012) at Cockatoo Island. Courtesy the artist

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