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18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


27 Jun 2012 to 16 Sep 2012


El Anatsui, David Aspden, Alwar Balasubramaniam, Gade, Nicholas Hlobo, Mit Jai Inn, Tim Johnson, Zoe Keramea, Maria Laet, Lee Mingwei, Kamin Lertchaiprasert, Liang Quan, Liu Zhuoquan, Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano, Makinti Napanangka, Park Young-Sook, Arin Rungjang, Khaled Sabsabi, Pinaree Sanpitak, Yoshihiro Suda, Phaptawan Suwannakudt, Alick Tipoti, Judith Wright, Yeesookyung, Nyapanyapa Yunupingu

Curators: Catherine de Zegher & Gerald McMaster

About the exhibition

As one of the four major venues that hosted the 18th Biennale of Sydney: all our relations, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia exhibited 26 international artists and 48 works in a show subtitled Possible Composition.

The title, Possible Composition, stemmed from and echoed the composite nature of the artworks displayed at the MCA in the Level 1 and 3 Galleries. Many of the artists made works by bringing together disparate elements, or reassembling disjointed parts to create a new heterogeneous whole from what was broken and scattered. Where there had been separation and fragmentation in all aspects of life, there was instead a profound desire for composing and recomposing together—an aesthetic co-composition paralleling the need for collaborative and meaningful solutions in today’s world.

Works included the participatory Mending Project (2009) of New York-based Taiwanese artist Lee Mingwei, where the artist invited visitors to bring their old clothes in to be repaired by him, initiating not only the mending of the wear and tear of their garments but, by implication, of the social fabric itself. During the course of the Biennale, the mended clothes accumulated, becoming the material remnants of shared thoughts and memories in fleeting conversations and stories.

Chinese artist Liu Zhuoquan installed hundreds of glass bottles, each painted with a segment of a large black snake’s body, in an installation entitled Where are you? You know more secrets! (2012). The artist used the traditional neihua painting technique to render the reptiles on the interior of the bottles, giving the impression that multiple snakes were writhing, twisting and curling around themselves and each other.

Nyapanyapa Yunupingu’s Light Painting (2011), was an animated series originating from a set of 110 drawings in white pen on clear acetates, uploaded to a customised computer program and projected in a very slow, almost imperceptible dissolve.

Occupying the entire ceiling of the MCA’s monumental Level 1 North Gallery was Thai artist Pinaree Sanpitak’s Anything Can Break (2011). Origami cubes and clouds shaped like breasts hung expectantly from the ceiling. Some of the clouds were lit with fibre-optics and lined with motion sensors that generated sound in response to the audience’s movement. The sheer mass of suspended elements infused a lifegiving force into the space.

The Biennale’s main title, all our relations, reflected the curatorial premise for Artistic Directors Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster. Their curatorial conversation and working method was informed by the notion of relation and shapes to the idea of interconnectedness in the exhibition. One example of collaborative artwork at the MCA combined Park Young-Sook’s Moon Jar (2012) and Yeesookyung’s Translated Vase-the moon (2012). The project began in Korea, where both artists are from, with the destruction of Park Young-Sook’s imperfect moon jars. Yeesookyung then rearranged the broken ceramic fragments into a new form according to her own aesthetic.

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