Fremantle Biennale announces participating artists and program for CROSSING 21

Fremantle-Biennale-Andrew-Sunley-Smith-Overload-2021Running from 5 – 21 November 2021, the Fremantle Biennale has announced the program for the third iteration of the site-responsive art festival.

With the title CROSSING 21, the Fremantle Biennale will explore Walyalup’s (Fremantle’s) intrinsic past and present relationship with the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River). Close attention will be paid to acknowledge and explore First Nations histories with the culturally and spiritually significant estuary – its main venues situated along the waterway of the Whadjuk Nyoongar people.

Tracing the shores of the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River) from Walyalup (Fremantle) to Dyoondalup (Point Walter), a focus of activity will take place between the two iconic Walyalup (Fremantle) bridges.

Inspiring the theme for CROSSING 21 is a seminal event that took place over one hundred years ago. At the mouth of the bilya (river) a sandstone tidal land bridge once existed which served as a natural crossing used by the Whadjuk people for safe passage, ritual and ceremonial practices. This rocky bar was blasted away by Chief Engineer C Y O’Connor to make way for the ever-growing Swan River colony in 1892.

Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Fremantle Biennale Tom Mùller commented that the event altered the course of history, causing disruption of a harmonious balance and tidal rhythm between ocean, river and people that had existed for millennia.

“Colonial-settlers arrived and disrupted an ancient and carefully managed equilibrium that began when time itself was dreamed up – a time when keepers of Katitjin (knowledge) cared for Country in such a way that everything was one.”

With the historic Fremantle Traffic Bridge currently being redesigned, the location is of particular interest and under close scrutiny by local residents and the City of Fremantle.

The program of participants for the third edition Fremantle Biennale hail from all corners of visual and performance arts, but this year the curatorial team have invited participation from its largest ever collective of West Australian First Nations and non-Indigenous artists.

CROSSING 21 will be articulated through a series of 18 immersive, large-scale, site-responsive artworks and performances, each aiming to facilitate new conversations and share collective stories. 15 of the 18 artworks and performances will be presented in part or in full by West Australian artists and collectives.

The event will champion emerging digital mediums including Australia’s largest ever drone light demonstration which will see a fleet of 160 drones take flight over the bilya (river) and wardan (ocean).

The headline work Moombaki – led by emerging Nyoongar artist Ilona McGuire & Elders and supported by the Minderoo Foundation, the Australian Government’s RISE fund, and Global Unmanned Systems (GUS) – will be a first of its kind show to be presented in Western Australia. An epic spectacle of light, movement and sound will transform the night sky, pioneering new sustainable technologies to tell ancient and living stories of place.

Mùller said the biennial festival of site-responsive contemporary art aims to reveal, interrogate, and celebrate the cultural, social and historical distinctiveness of the Walyalup (Fremantle) area, while making art openly accessible for all. “In a time of health, social, economic, and environmental crisis, CROSSING 21 looks to art as a form of connection,” he said.

“The Fremantle Biennale is free for all to attend and enjoy. It is an occasion for you to experience innovative, thought-provoking contemporary artwork set against some of Fremantle’s most iconic locations.”

“Through a series of site-responsive artworks informed by co-design and collaboration, we hope to create tangible opportunities for new ideas, for history to be re-examined and for change to start to emerge,” said Mr Muller.

The third iteration of the Fremantle Biennale will be presented from Friday 5 November to Sunday 21 November 2021. The event is free to attend with some ticketed performances and events. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Andrew Sunley Smith, Overload, 2021 – courtesy of Fremantle Biennale

The programme of participating artists and works for the Fremantle Biennale 2021 are:

Orange Path
Perhaps WA’s longest artwork and one of AC4CA’s most ambitious projects to date, a 500-metre walkable geometric painted pathway will unfold in November, tracing the shoreline of the Derbarl Yerrigan to connect Fremantle’s two bridges.

Step Change
The third and final work in a collaborative series by Alexander Boynes, Mandy Martin and Tristen Parr, Step Change is a large-scale visual, video and sound work that explores the urgent need to transition in the age of climate crisis.

Outside In
Taking cues from Nyoongar Radio’s popular Inside Out, artist and choreographer Amrita Hepi has set up an international hotline for dedications and song requests for a loved one you are missing. Collected dedications will be re-danced in a continuous tribute, audio and dance work.

A poetic and absurd gesture to our era of excess, instability and oppression, Overload will see a partially submerged, marooned vessel occupying an expanse of water beneath Fremantle’s Traffic Bridge. Excessively loaded with local limestone rock spall, the sunken vessel is designed as a symbol of commerce and export. Masterfully restored and marooned by artist Andrew Sunley Smith in collaboration with Fremantle maritime and seafaring experts, Overload is a poetic and absurd gesture to our era of excess, instability and oppression.

Tightness Times Toughness (TxT)
Echoing the proportions of the Fremantle traffic bridges and the deepest channel of the river, TxT is a major new participatory installation by Bruno Booth. Audiences are invited to navigate the corridors, to experience moments of crossing: where one place becomes another, where a moment lapses into the next, and where a person is remade by their experiences.

Inspired by Black Lives Matter chants of protest and the collective energy and histories of procession, Bullhorn is a new work by composers Clint Bracknell and Callum G’Froerer, and choreographer Trevor Ryan. Drawing on the Nyoongar bull shark song performance developed by Bracknell and Ryan, and first presented in Perth Festival 2021 with the Mayakeniny dance group, Bullhorn is a powerful collaboration of music, dance, song and experimental performance.

Kepa Kalyakoorl – Aquiferous
Immerse yourself in glowing and moving springs of light and sound, mapped into the space of the Old Customs House. Inviting awe and curiosity, this commission connects to water through a deep acknowledgement of place. Kepa Kalyakoorl – Aquiferous is a collaboration between interdisciplinary artist Cara Teusner-Gartland, environmental designer Daniel Jan Martin and Whadjuk Nyoongar woman Sandra Harben.

Fervor | Crossovers
Hosting unique dinners in spectacular locations around Australia, the pop-up restaurant returns to Fremantle for an unforgettable dining experience with native food expert and cook Dale Tilbrook. United by their passion for native Australian ingredients, Dale and Fervor, led by Paul Iskov, will create a culinary adventure, in an unmissable evening of foraged flavours and story sharing. Quandong, bloodroot, marron and wattle will take centre stage in a multi-course dinner, celebrating the native foods of the Walyalup waterways and WA.

Meeting Place
European Baroque music, including songs, opera arias and instrumental chamber music, will be heard alongside the sounds and music belonging to this land and the Whadjuk Nyoongar people. Inspired by stories of crossing, HIP Company’s new work Meeting Place is a concert of the group’s signature style of historically informed performance practice and Early Music, transformed by song performed by Nyoongar singer Lilly Gogos.

An epic spectacle of light, movement and sound will transform the night sky. The Nyoongar word for ‘where the river meets the sky’, Moombaki is a choreographed drone light show re-creating the first stories of Whadjuk Nyoongar Country for all to experience. With artworks created by Ilona McGuire and a narrative guided by story and knowledge held by Whadjuk Nyoongar Traditional Owners Doris Getta, Marion Kickett, Karen Jacobs, Glenys Yarren, Neville Collard, Stan Headland, Farley Garlett, Walter McGuire and Brendan Moore, Moombaki launches the Fremantle Biennale program in 2021.

These Words will Remain
Strung across the wooden pillars of Fremantle’s iconic old bridge will be these words will remain by Wiradjuri poet Jazz Money. In both English and Nyoongar the large-scale text piece invites audiences to consider the strength and beauty of these sovereign Whadjuk waterways.

The Commonwealth of New Bayswater
The Commonwealth of New Bayswater (Jessee Lee Johns, Rohin Kickett, Jacob Diamond) will be opening its borders for the duration of the festival. The small, ephemeral nation made up of a collection of quasi-functional territories will be offering single entry tourist visas to travelers from all over the world.

Sunrise Sunset
Two shelters by the Derbarl Yerrigan shifting between the shelter in east at sunrise, and the shelter in the west at sunset. Visitors are invited to take a moment of pause, to witness fluctuating tides, the movement of people and the passing of time. Artist: Katie West.

Millenial Reaper
Artist Loren Kronemyer attempts to make a broom from scratch. By following the journey from raw material to finished object, audiences are invited to uncover the complex international, intergenerational and interspecies echoes that live inside everyday things.

A Blessed Curse
A new dance and theatre work by Maitland Schnaars and Brooke Leeder & Dancers, in collaboration with Ian Wilkes and Humphrey Bower, A Blessed Curse speaks to a curse, told to be placed on WA Chief Engineer C Y O’Connor, which sent him mad and drove him to his death just months before the completion of the Fremantle Harbour in 1903. With an original sound composition by Azariah Felton, this work merges both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal stories and fin expression in movement, sound, language and Country, creating a visceral experience and a window to the stories of our past.

Transitions, a new work by artist Nathan John Thompson, makes visible the unseen sonic movements, histories and environments within Plympton Pumphouse. Manmade electromagnetic pulses, structural vibrations, geological movements, pre-recorded stories, and waterway movements are captured within the Pumphouse, processed and interpreted by a vibrational robotic body. Here sound takes the form of a transient liquid metal, called gallium, which moves with the robotic body in delicate ethereality.

Gathering Place
The 2021 Fremantle Biennale architectural commission by Penhale & Winter with Sandra Harben is an invitation to gather, sit and spend time in one of the city’s forgotten public spaces. A project formed out of an extended yarn between the authors, a sinuous winding seat is set back from the bilya (river) within a quarried amphitheatre. Collecting, binding and gathering elements; a limestone edge, a Moreton Bay fig, she-oak trees, fragmented river view, this architectural form provides a space for people to gather, to engage in conversation or sit in quiet reflection of the immediate area, amongst the ebb and flow of changing rhythms.

On the horizon, a small group of couta sailing boats gather, calling out to the bilya (river) and audiences along the shoreline. A new work by composer Rachael Dease, sound designer Tim Collins and Perth’s small community of couta boat custodians, Vespers is a sound, music and performance piece imagined for and carried across the river. At once performers, orchestra and dancers, this small floating chorus of yachts will travel downstream at sunset, drifting with song to a waiting audience.