Sydney Biennale: Cockatoo Island (part 2).

AES+F, The Feast of Trimalchio (2009); Peter Hennessey, My Hubble (the universe turned in on itself) (2010); Slave Pianos, Penalogical Pianology: The Timbers of Justice (2010); Althea Thauberger, La mort e la miseria (2008); Brook Andrew, Jumping Castle War Memorial (2010), originally uploaded by mxccuba.

So by now we’ve started to actually talk about the Biennale: Something political can be poetic and beautiful; By reason of distance, it’s dominated by Australian and New Zealand artists, which is awesome, and rather than being just another complete regurgitation of another biennale, it supports a more context-specific perspective; and it makes sense. For a biennale, the thematic is quite tightly curated; while the majority holds up amidst the group, the crappy or lazy falls away and becomes invisible so, as always, it’s apparent that it could have been further edited; regardless, it’s definitely much better than usual. It adopts the formula of big commissions and installations at Cockatoo Island, for example Peter Hennessey’s My Hubble (the universe turned in on itself) 2010 and AES+F’s epic instalment of The Feast of Trimalchio 2009, first exhibited at the Venice Biennale 2007; Moreover, it’s shaped by Cockatoo Island, and MCA to a lesser extent, thereby shifting any previous balance between institutions and sites.

For Elliot, ‘the idea of distance expresses the condition of art itself, which is to be of life, run parallel to life and sometimes to be about life. But for art to be art, it must maintain a distance from life because without this it has no authority.’ But Elliot’s description of distance and authority has started to stick in my mind. Initially I thought the amplified inclusion of Australian and New Zealand artists attests to a decentralised outlook. That distance also allows some objectivity. And furthermore, this would directly defy Francesco Bonami’s dismissive: ‘Australian art is bad; if not the worst in the world… even Canadian art is better than Australian art’. But authority? Really? Maybe it simply suggests transformation. Or is it the kind that simply replaces one authority with another new authority. On the surface and in passing it makes sense, but it’s sticking.


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