Under the artistic direction of Brook Andrew, the exhibition will include artworks across six sites: Art Gallery of NSW, Artspace, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Cockatoo Island, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and the National Art School.
The 22nd Biennale of Sydney is artist – and First Nations-led, presenting an expansive exhibition of contemporary art that connects local communities and global networks.
“The urgent states of our contemporary lives are laden with unresolved past anxieties and hidden layers of the supernatural,” said Brook Andrew. “NIRIN is about to expose this, demonstrating that artists and creatives have the power to resolve, heal, dismember and imagine futures of transformation for re-setting the world.
“Sovereignty is at the centre of these actions, and it shines a light on environments in shadow. I hope that NIRIN (edge) gathers life forces of integrity to push through often impenetrable confusion.”
For the first time, artists from Nepal, Georgia, Afghanistan, Sudan and Ecuador will participate in the Biennale of Sydney. These artists, creatives and collectives include: Joël Andrianomearisoa, BE., Karla Dickens, FUNPARK Coalition, Lucas Ihlein and Kim Williams, Kylie Kwong, Parramatta Female Factory, Andrew Rewald, Justin Shoulder (Club Ate), STARTTS (NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors), Tennant Creek Brio and Luke Willis Thompson.
The Biennale also announced an extensive program called NIRIN WIR spanning from the Blue Mountains to La Perouse. NIRIN, meaning edge, and WIR, meaning sky, is a phrase from Brook Andrew’s mother’s Nation, the Wiradjuri people of central western New South Wales.
The program focuses on Sydney as an expansive, global city comprised of vibrant, complex villages, and is a major partnership with the Powerhouse Museum, and a series of activations and creative partnerships with Blacktown Native Institution, Parramatta Female Factory, Bankstown Poetry Slam, 4ESydney HipHop Festival, City of Sydney Libraries, Randwick City Council, tertiary institutions around the country, grassroots organisations and more.
Grounded in connecting communities, the Biennale is also launching a learning program called OUR PATH – uniting an international network of artists and thinkers with Australian children and young people. The program offers a global context to local concerns, celebrating the valuable wisdom that exists in all communities.
“Each visit to NIRIN will be a new and different experience,” said Barbara Moore, Chief Executive Officer, Biennale of Sydney. “In the year of the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook’s landing, art is an essential catalyst for change. Through art, conversations and collaborative interventions, the Biennale will bring together people from across the city, state, country and the world in a safe place to discuss issues that matter.”
NIRIN WIR highlights include: Site activations, performances, discursive gatherings, residencies, collaborations, research and ephemera at the Powerhouse Museum and Sydney Observatory centred on innovative practices, the convergence of ideas and people exploring new ways of navigating the world.
The program includes a NIRIN YARN that is a demonstrative keynote between Dion Beasley, an Alywarr artist with disabilities who communicates through a truncated form of Auslan and prolific drawing, and writer Johanna Bell. A series of performances in collaboration with two iconoclastic grassroots organisations from Bankstown: 4ESydney HipHop Festival and Bankstown Poetry Slam.
A partnership with PYT Fairfield and Parramatta Female Factory Precinct that celebrates and memorialises the experiences and survival of “Parra Girls” past and present. The program acknowledges the significant work of Bonney Djuric in transforming the Parramatta Female Factory into an internationally recognized Site of Conscience (United Nations).
Brook Andrew is the Artistic Director of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020). He is an interdisciplinary artist who examines dominant narratives, often relating to colonialism and modernist histories. Through museum and archival interventions and curatorial projects, he aims to make forgotten stories visible and offer alternative pathways for interpreting history in the world today.
Drawing inspiration from vernacular objects and the archive he travels internationally to work with communities and various private and public collections. His recent research includes an ambitious international comparative Australian Research Council project Representation, Remembrance and the Memorial, responding to the repeated high-level calls for an Australian national memorial to Aboriginal loss and the frontier wars.
In 2017, Brook was the recipient of the prestigious Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (SARF) and in 2016 was appointed Photography Residencies Laureate at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris. In 2014 Brook worked closely with the collections of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Museo de América and Museo Nacional de Antropología for the exhibition Really Useful Knowledge curated by WHW at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.
He curated TABOO in 2012/13 at the MCA Sydney. This was presented alongside a demanding public debate program called Blakatak that included esteemed First Nation and other creatives and was devised in conversation with John von Sturmer, a social anthropologist with a distinguished career in Aboriginal studies.
Brook is Associate Professor at MADA, Monash University; Honorary Senior Fellow within the Indigenous Studies Unit and the School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne; and Associate Researcher, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford. He is currently a Charlie Perkins scholar undertaking a DPhil at the Ruskin School of Art, The University of Oxford. He is represented by Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris and Brussels.
The 22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN runs 14 March – 8 June 2020. Entry is free. For more information, and the full list of participating artists, creatives and collectives, visit: www.biennaleofsydney.art for details.
Image: Jota Mombaça, How old is suffering? (Performance 2018) – photo by Anna Cerato