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Art’s contemporary melting-pot

Post-colonialism and power and are at the cutting edge for the 17th Biennale of Sydney, Penny Craswell discovers.

Art’s contemporary melting-pot


February 11th, 2010

Artistic Director, David Elliott presented the program of groundbreaking work from around the world to an assembled who’s who of Australia’s visual art community.

Elliott’s experience as a leading director of contemporary art museums (including the Istanbul Modern, the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm) and curator of a series of ground-breaking exhibitions has resulted in a democratic, pluralist program, encompassing works from across the globe.

Drawing these works together under the title ‘The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age’, Elliott demonstrates his skill as a cultural historian, drawing together art that examines the human condition.

Themes covered in the exhibition include power, history, racism, terror, poverty, superstition and the experience of the ‘other’.

“Distance can be a very good and necessary thing,” Elliott says. “Distance gives us space and freedom.”

Making use of Cockatoo Island once more, the exhibition will include new works by approximately 50 Australian and international artists.

“The aim of this biennale is to bring together work from diverse cultures, at the same time, on the equal playing field of contemporary art, where no culture can assume superiority over any other.”

Biennale of Sydney

Hero image: Chinese-born, New York-based Cai Guo-Qiang’s major installation for Cockatoo Island’s Turbine Hall is ‘Inopportune: Stage One’ (2004), a series of exploding cars that comments on beauty, horror and terrorism

brook andrew

Brook Andrew’s ‘Jumping Castle War Memorial’ (2010) contains a single, male presence and is decorated with a pattern based on Wiradjuri design – those over 16 years who choose to jump will have to consider if they are stomping on Australian indigenous culture.

daniel crook

New Zealand artist Daniel Crook’s video ‘Static No. 12 (tai chi forms)’ (2009-2010) captures and distorts a man performing Tai Chi.

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