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Nedko Solakov, A Life (Black & White), 1998, photo Giorgio Colombo Nedko Solakov, A Life (Black & White), 1998, photo Giorgio Colombo
courtesy of the artist, Arndt & Partner Berlin/Zurich and the collections of Peter Kogler, Vienna; Susan and Lewis Manilow, Chicago; Hauser and Wirth, St. Gallen; Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main.

Many works in this year’s exhibition will be participatory, encouraging audiences to take the plunge to discover “new ways of looking and thinking about the lives they’re living.” We have been forewarned that “movement is a strong feature—works turn, spin, reverse, mirror, make noise and even blow up.”

Most interesting among the new media artists on the bill are Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller who will create at Pier 2/3 a new work entitled The Murder of Crows, a 100 speaker work that envelops the audience. They refer in their works to “the world of film theatre and spectacle, as well as to the ways in which technology affects consciousness.” The installation will be structured like a play or a film but with images created by voice, music and sound effects. Inspired strongly by Goya’s The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, the work uses multiple soundscapes as well as composition in a blend devised to “challenge its audience’s view of the world”, and who could ask more of a work of art than that?

There are plenty more puzzling installations of the kind that generally turn up at biennales just to confuse us—rooms full of desks, chairs, whiteboards (someone should compile an inventory of materials sacrificed to art in biennales). Geoffrey Farmer turns aeroplane interiors into Airliner Open Studios. Raquel Ormelia upsets a Wilderness Society office. Lara Favaretto uses one ton of confetti, talcum powder and four hermetic stage ventilators. In A Life (Black & White), Nedko Solakov employs two painters to cover gallery walls in black, then white, then black again. There are ”public social sculptures” by Norwegian artist Anders Kieliesvik whose past work includes Happy Mountain Circus, in which performers in remnants of clown costume appear to be lurking on the edge of a precipice as in some actor’s nightmare.

For the truly adventurous, the Biennale put a call out for volunteers to work with artist Christoph Büchel who plans to create a punk rock band with four members over 80 years old. The band will rehearse God Save the Queen—the Sex Pistols version. Other performances will come from Dora Garcia, Joan Jonas and Ana Prvacki. Garcia will create a Lenny Bruce performance that never happened when the comedian was forced out of Australia in 1962 for performing obscenties (four letter words). Ana Prvacki will produce “a music-derived painkiller from saliva collected while practicing the flute.” Joan Jonas is a pioneering American performance artist working with video and live action and creating myriad exotic personae.
Rosemary Laing, weather #12, 2006 Rosemary Laing, weather #12, 2006
courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York, Galerie Conrads, Dusseldorf and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne

The online venue work Inanimate Alice ( by Chris Joseph and Kate Pullinger has been described as “a digitized, interactive and dynamic story for the modern reader… that highlights the need for a new definition of reading and literacy.” It’s built around the story of a young girl growing up in the first half of the 21st century, and her imaginary digital friend, Brad. Over ten episodes, each a self contained story, we see Alice grow from an eight year old living with her parents in a remote region of Northern China to a talented mid-twenties animator and designer with the biggest games company in the world.”

William Kentridge, Dan Graham, Chris Burden are all represented in a number of works (including a lecture/performance within a video installation from Kentridge on Cockatoo Island) as are less familiar names from around the world many of whom are still early in their careers. Australian representation abounds—Stuart Ringholt, TV Moore, Raquel Ormelia, Mike Parr, Rosemary Laing, Tracey Moffatt, Vernon Ah Kee, Gordon Bennett, Richard Bell and Shaun Gladwell.

Held at diverse venues including Cockatoo Island and in the western suburbs of Sydney, the Biennale ‘constellations’ are envisaged as “public conversations involving a wide range of participants on topics related to contemporary art, its place in society, cross-cultural and urban experiences, cultural politics and the making of art exhibitions.”

Tamy Ben-Tor, The Dance of the Albino Rat Tamy Ben-Tor, The Dance of the Albino Rat
courtesy of the artist and Zach Feuer Gallery, photo Zach Feuer Gallery
The youthful Christian pilgrim hordes who will have just vacated the city will be thankfully replaced throughout June-July by another kind of faithful when all manner of artists, curators, academics, poets, philosophers, activists and others will travel to Sydney to take part in the Biennale, to “understand, engage with and challenge” the works and ideas brought together under its banner. RT

2008 Sydney Biennale, June 18-Sept 7,

RealTime issue #85 June-July 2008 pg. 6

© Virginia Baxter; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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