Sydney’s Biennale 2016
We take a look at 2016 Sydney Biennale’s “Embassy of the Real” hosted on Cockatoo Island before the curtain raises.
Held on Cockatoo Island, Embassy of the Real is a tantalizing exploration into our perception of reality in a world obsessed with digital evolution. The contrast between modern art and the harsh industrial, wartime and convict history of Cockatoo Island intertwined with the physical presence of rising cliff faces and sweeping island views make for a beautiful, dynamic and well, exhausting exhibition. One that offers such originality.
As a newcomer to Cockatoo Island this is an immersive experience. After a short and pleasant boat ride mother nature greets you with a grand entrance. To your right are steep cliffs, the top is known simply as Upper Cockatoo Island, to your left beautiful ocean views back to Sydney Harbour Bridge and ahead a long walkway to the old shipping warehouses where the exhibition begins.
There are 21 artist exhibitions contained in the Island, so we’ve honed in on a few. Bharti Kher, based in Delhi, has produced six life sized sitting female sex workers, cast on models sitting in her Delhi studio. A challenging process no doubt, especially when covering the head. I had the pleasure of meeting her fleetingly at the Museum of Contemporary Arts opening night, and she expressed how impressed she was with the whole exhibition, and in particular the enthusiasm and knowledge of volunteers.
The mighty blimp and bulb are the first exhibits you encounter. The photos don’t quite convey the magnitude and precision, in the flesh is is a mightily impressive display. A giant warehouse space originally used for ship building it makes a perfect home for grand exhibitions. It’s hard to comprehend how much work went into construction, and then you learn that the wind speed caught them unawares on first installation and ripped out all the attachments. When you have just two weeks to complete the whole installation process then you get a feel for the pressure, Stehphanie Rosenthal, Biennale director and her crew were under. Pressure which they have handled with great grace enthusiasm. I heard Stephanie speak and met many of her crew and exhibiting artists and was incredibly impressed by how approachable all were and willing to talk through what it takes to put on a Biennale.
A spiders web strangling beds, a dark and brooding exhibit that took the artist and four helpers 12 days to weave, only to be cut down when the Biennale closes in June.
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