Biennale of Sydney exhibition to reimagine over 100 objects from Powerhouse Collection

Ramin and Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian, Birthday Party, ICA Boston (detail) - photo by Charles Mayer, 2015Iranian artists and brothers Ramin and Rokni Haerizadeh in collaboration with Hesam Rahmanian will present the premiere installation I Prefer Talking to Doctors About Something Else at the Powerhouse Museum from 14 March as part of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, NIRIN.

Now based in Dubai, the three-artist collective live and work together and are internationally renowned for their individual artworks as well as collaborative works combining everyday objects with art. In collaboration with the Powerhouse Museum, this new work will reposition, create new meanings for and change the narrative of over 100 objects from the Powerhouse Collections, including objects which have never been displayed before.

I Prefer Talking to Doctors About Something Else moves across three themes: grief, the human body and healing. The space will be bathed in fluorescent yellow and objects spanning the science, design, fashion and technology collections will be connected through LED lights and grouped together in response to the themes.

Objects include a 3 metre Australian Aids Memorial Quilt, part of the memorial project started in 1988 as an expression of grief and memorial to the many people, often young and from the LGBTQI+ communities who died in the 1980s and 1990s; an Egyptian eye of Horus amulet 664-630BCE; a Soviet era space satellite; and a sumptuous ‘Moraine’ sofa from international Pritzker Prize winner Zaha Hadid (1950-2016).

Also on display will be a swimming costume from proto-feminist and Australian swimmer and star Annette Kellerman; an ornate Ghanaian coffin in the shape of a crab; a mourning brooch from 1800s England made of plaited hair of a deceased loved one; and a 3-D printed surgical heart designed by researchers at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute. A video by Iranian filmmakers Javad Azimi and Hamid Hosseini documenting the Turkmen Porkhani healing ritual will be presented alongside the collection objects.

Visitors are invited to observe the process of collaboration between the artists and the Museum as they install the objects and create the installation between 2 – 6 and 9 – 13 March. The completed exhibition will be open to the public from 14 March – 8 June 2020.

The first major creative partnership between the Museum and the three-month contemporary art event, the Powerhouse will also present a program within NIRIN WIR that includes a series of talks and performances, and artists in residency at the Sydney Observatory.

Tennant Creek artist Dion Beasley and Darwin-based author Johanna Bell will share an illustrated conversation for the inaugural NIRIN Yarn at the Powerhouse (Saturday 14 March). Impacted by deafness and muscular dystrophy, Dion uses drawing to communicate with the world. For eight years, Dion and Johanna have collaborated on the Cheeky Dogs picture book series.

For this event, Dion and Johanna will share the making of their books, the joys and discomforts of cross-cultural collaboration and what’s possible when you chip away at the edges of entrenched practice to create new, hybrid forms of storytelling.

Breaking Bread – a South African arts collective who embrace community exchange through the customs, origins and ceremony of a shared meal, will be in residence at Sydney Observatory. They will publicly present their collaboration with a range of Sydney-based practitioners who share their ethos of food and food sharing as a generative activity that can birth new understandings (Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 March).

Unbound Collective, consisting of Ali Gumillya, Simone Ulalka Tur, Faye Rosas Blanch and Natalie Harkin, brings together years of research in a performance practice that moves through spaces that have historically seen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians excluded and reduced to tell untold chapters of Australia’s true history.

The performative work In the Hold at Sydney Observatory responds to radioactive ideas of deep colonialism and explores the quietness of sovereignty, through activism, spoken word, music and installation projection (30 May – 2 June). On 31 May, visitors will be able to meet the collective and learn about their practice in a special In-conversation.

For May and June, artist Lily Hibberd will be in residence at the Sydney Observatory. Boundless – out of time will see Hibberd develop and present a series of experimental seances including performances, workshops and talks on the themes of time and the hidden history of the site.

Club Ate, multi-form artist duo consisting of Justin Shoulder and Bhenji Ra will present performances at the Powerhouse. Filipina Australian artist Bhenji Ra will be in performative conversation with Tausug Elder and Pangalay master Sitti Obeso from Southern Philippines (3 and 6 June).

Bleeding the lines between ocean and land, the traditional and contemporary, the Indigenous and the diasporic body, this exchange between teacher and student is a generous sharing of a relationship sustained by periodic visits to home country, the sharing of personal ephemera, and online messages across the Pacific Ocean.

AE†: Jaws of the Horizon is an accumulative body of work by Phasmahammer fka Justin Shoulder who will launch the latest performative chapter (7 June). The event marks the end of NIRIN WIR and the closing weekend of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney.

“The exhibition with international artists Ramin and Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian will allow visitors to see our collection in a whole new light, whilst the program at the Sydney Observatory uncovers new narratives for the site,” said Powerhouse Museum, Chief Executive, Lisa Havilah. “We are thrilled to be part of NIRIN WIR and look forward to providing a platform for Australians to experience the work of artists from across the globe.”

Image: Ramin and Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian, Birthday Party, ICA Boston (detail) – photo by Charles Mayer, 2015