10 things you’ve just gotta see at #20BOS – from your friendly neighbourhood Culture Editor

Words & Photos by Ante Bruning

The 20th Biennale of Sydney is here!

Sydney’s largest contemporary art festival is open to the public from 18 March-5 June 2016.  With so much to see and do, we thought we’d share Ante’s favourites from the Media Preview. Curated by Stephanie Rosenthal, the festival is themed ‘The Future Is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’.  Seven venues have been transformed into ‘Embassies of Thought’, plus ‘In-Between Projects’ scattered around Sydney.


Embassy of the Real (Cockatoo Island)

1. Lee Bul

(Various pieces – check out 20BOS.com.au for more info)

Lee Bul’s installation contains multiple pieces, all of which are larger than life and fill up a quarter of the Industrial Precinct of Cockatoo Island. Wherever you stand in this space, the change of perspective makes you think and consider the message Bul is trying to send.  I couldn’t help but wonder: Is Bul making a comment on the past? The present? The future? Or, perhaps it’s all three?

2. Korakrit Arunanondchai

Painting with history in a room filled with people with funny names 3’ 2015

‘Painting with history in a room filled with people with funny names 3’ 2015

Korakrit Arunanondchai invites audiences to walk a canvas-like runway (barefoot), get cozy on a denim beanbag, and watch an evocative film, which seems to take you on a journey on discovery of the self, and where one fits into this post-modern, information-inundated world.

3. Xu Zhen (Produced by MadeIn Company)

(Various pieces – check out 20BOS.com.au for more info)

Xu Zhen’s remarkable sculptures couple beautifully with the space in which they are situated. They are truly worth some pause in silence, consideration, and reflection.


Embassy of Translation (Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia)

4. Noa Eshkol

The First Flower’ 1973

‘The First Flower’ 1973

Noa Eshkol’s Wall Carpets are bright and commanding, causing you to stop and admire in awe. Despite all of the wonderful colour and beautiful forms, the pieces somehow draw a sense of foreboding, perhaps influenced by the dark history and politics that underpin them. 

Embassy of Spirits (Art Gallery of New South Wales)

5. Sheila Hicks

The Embassy of Chromatic Delegates’ 2015-16

‘The Embassy of Chromatic Delegates’ 2015-16

Sheila Hicks’s pieces are vivid and raw, employing multiple mediums, defying categorisation – and challenging various disciplines and movements of thought. They are fun and playful, and the amount of work and attention to detail that went into their creation are truly inspiring.

6. Mella Jaarsma

Dogwalk’ 2015-16

‘Dogwalk’ 2015-16

Mella Jaarsma’s costumes and curated performance are haunting, confronting – and brilliant. The relationship between humans and animals are explored.  The costumes are eerie and striking, but how are they any different to some of the clothing items we wear day to day? It makes you think twice about one’s next serving of meat, next purchase of leather boots.

7. Rodel Tapaya

Adda Manok Mo, Pedro? (Do You Have a Rooster, Pedro?) 2015-16 pictured with artist.

‘Adda Manok Mo, Pedro? (Do You Have a Rooster, Pedro?)’ 2015-16 pictured with artist.

Rodel Tapaya’s acrylic on canvas swept me away, in awe and thought: the scale of the piece blew my mind, and the rich narrative made me wonder. You can imagine my surprise and shock when a man approached me and introduced himself, advising me he was the artist.  Rodel shared with me the mythological influences that underpin the work, the recent war in the Philippines that encode its narrative, and the amount of work and thought that goes into his creative process.  Needless to say, I was humbled.

8. Joyce Campbell (in collaboration with Richard Niania)

Taniwha Whakaheke/Taniwha Descending’ 2016

‘Taniwha Whakaheke/Taniwha Descending’ 2016

Joyce Campbell’s nine-piece photograph series was created in collaboration with historian and knowledge holder Richard Niania. The black and white images captured are so strikingly beautiful, complemented by the black-painted wall they are suspended from.  Collectively, they combine New Zealand ecology with traditional Maori myths.

Embassy of Transition (Mortuary Station)

9. Charwei Tsai

Spiral Incense Bardo 2014

‘Spiral Incense Bardo’ 2014

Joyce Campbell’s series of works are incense made of natural herbs, delicately inscribed with Chinese and English text. The scent of the burning incense, the gentle crumbling of ash, the surrounding backdrop of Chippendale’s abandoned Mortuary Station – combined, it serves as a kind of ritual, a reflection on the passage of life to death.

Embassy of Disappearance (Carriageworks)

10. Neha Choksi (in collaboration with Alice Cummins)

Neha Choksi’s gorgeous sunset mural catches your attention the moment you walk within its vicinity. You stand before it, curious as to what it’s all about.  The performance by Alice Cummins is a mixture of movement and monologue, engaging the audience and taking them on an emotional journey through loss and grief.  It is heartfelt and touching, and played on my mind for days afterwards.

Are you excited to check out #20BOS? What was your favourite piece? We’d love to know.  Email us at editorial@utsvertigo.com.au, or use hashtag #UTSVertigo in your Biennale-inspired Instagram and Twitter posts.

The 20th Biennale of Sydney runs 18 March-5 June 2016.

For more information on the festival, artists, or pieces, check out their website at biennaleofsydney.com.au and their Facebook at facebook.com/biennaleofsydney; www.facebook.com/events/860667927382674