March 19, 2014

After a few weeks skiing in Europe it was fantastic to be back on the harbour yesterday, ferrying across to Cockatoo Island for the first installment of the 19th Biennale of Sydney. Under the banner ‘You Imagine What You Desire’ Artistic Director Juliana Engberg has done a terrific job of assembling a top-notch roster of international artists – the gaggle of accents on the crossing was testimony enough to that! And after a tough, controversial lead-up it was a relief to finally get out there amongst the art – where it counts. Callum Morton’s majestically tongue-in-cheek Google Ghost Train makes a big splash at the entrance, and kind of sets the tone for a biennale that is upbeat, iconoclastic and quite frankly, fun. I loved Swiss fitness fanatics, Gerda Steiner and Jorg Lenzlinger’s ‘Meanwhile in the bush’ installation using redundant pieces of gym equipment, reconfiguring them with flowers, skeletons, branches and other ephemera – a great comment on the real potential of human energy if turned to other things than just churning out buff bodies. More sobering was the ‘Inferno’ video installation by Israeli artist Yael Bartana. Even if you didn’t know that it addresses the relationship between Neo-Pentecostalism and Judaic tradition in Brazil (a fairly niche concern, to be true) it was just mesmerizingly awesome. Every one of my physical-emotive indicators were spinning off the dial, as I watched this stark film in a darkened room, gobsmacked. And this is just the beginning!

Author: Nick tobias