More than 700 works are on display for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney

NIRIN, the official title of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, will be taking over the city’s foremost art institutions with a total of 700 words in display.

101 artists and collectives, including 39 Australian artists, will have their work displayed from 14th March to 8th June, bringing to life icons like Art Gallery of NSW, Artspace, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Cockatoo Island, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and National Art School.

NIRIN, meaning “edge” in Wiradjuri, seeks to push audiences to see beyond the familiar and to challenge history by being a part of the story, the inspiration, and imagined futures. To assist, the Biennale has put together a public program of over 600 events – most of them being free – with live and site-specific artist activations throughout.

Events like a restored ferry covered with traditional tattoo markings to celebrate the women of the Pacific Islands, transporting students free of charge from Circular Quay to Cockatoo Island, are some of what you can expect from this enormous program. Others include a “to cook Cook or not?” debate with live performances by Thelma Plum and Ripple Effect, a performative walking tour at the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct, and more.

The Biennale itself always comes with those must-see and often controversial highlights. This year that may include Pitjantjatjara artist, activist and leader Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams’s (1952–2019) large-scale political protest piece, which he created with young men in his community as well as his widow Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin and his lifelong friend and collaborator Sammy Dodd following his passing last year. Said work will be displayed at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Other highlights include Tennant Creek Brio’s dynamic series of paintings on discarded Western objects that draw inspiration from their experiences at home in the Northern Territory (Artspace); Gamilaroi/ Gomeroi Murri Yinah photographer Barbara McGrady’s presentation of her life’s work as a kaleidoscopic compendium of contemporary Aboriginal history (Campbelltown Arts Centre); Ibrahim Mahama’s epic installation of sewn coal sacks in the Turbine Hall on Cockatoo Island; visual activist and photographer Zanele Muholi’s presentation of three bodies of work that look at the politics of race, gender and sexuality (Museum of Contemporary Art Australia); and Hannah Catherine Jones’s audio-visual work using pop-cultural and archival material, poetic motifs and provocative imagery to tell a story of the African diaspora (National Art School).

“NIRIN proposes that creativity is an important means of truth-telling, of directly addressing unresolved anxieties that stalk our times and ourselves,” said Brook Andrew, Artistic Director of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney. “Most importantly, it is a place from which to see the world through different eyes, to embrace our many edges and imagine pride in ecologically harmonious and self-defined futures. In urgent times of shifting boundaries and conflicts, we desperately need to alter our actions to show respect for ancient cultures. Now is a potent time to heal and feel the rush and tension of new futuristic possibilities.”

The 22nd Biennale of Sydney, NIRIN, is open – free to the public – from 14 March – 8 June 2020.

Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy-Editor-At-Large of the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.