Biennale snapshot

May 14, 2010 at 11:28 pm Leave a comment

I’m heading out to the second day of the opening week forum in a few minutes (first up: Claudio Dicochea on a panel titled “First People, Diaspora and Fourth Worlds”),  but wanted to share a few things before I go.

First, just want to make clear the scale of this thing. The chair of the Sydney Biennale said in his introductory remarks that the scope is BIG, as big as the enormous Roxy Paine sculpture out in front of the MCA, and it needs to be. There are seven venues in all, scattered around the Sydney Harbor area, and taking everything in is near impossible. Some of the best conversations I’ve overheard have been people coming back from the same venue and talking about the different things they saw, then vowing to go back again to take in what they missed. Cockatoo Island, for example, is a treasure trove of hidden delights, made more delightful and more complicated by the fact that you can’t always tell the construction work taking place on the island from the art (see this Sydney Morning Herald article, the best line of which comes from one of the workers on the island: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/take-your-partners-and-make-up-your-minds-the-biennale-has-begun-20100511-uuvq.html).

Second, the range of languages and concerns at this Biennale is kaleidescopic, with strange and beautiful bits of overlap. A panel yesterday on materialism that featured American artist Fred Tomaselli and Tibetan artist Gonkar Gyatso (google them both, I urge you — you won’t be disappointed) underlined the profound differences in the way they talk about their work: Tomaselli hyper-intellectual, with brain and mouth going a mile a minute (three pages of notes in my notebook), and Gyatso so quiet and modest as to be almost soporific (a third of a page of notes in my notebook) as well as the similarities in their work, which is sublime, collagist, personal and universal — and, ultimately, in their approaches. “I try to be a serious artist,” Gyatso said, and he could have been speaking for Tomaselli as well. “I try to deliver the message in a playful way.”

Here’s a picture of the Roxy Paine sculpture “Neuron,” to give you a sense of the kind of big we’re talking about:

– Deborah Sussman Susser

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