TarraWarra Biennial 2014: Whisper in My Mask

Nasim Nasr_Unveiling the Veil_editorialThe TarraWarra Biennial 2014: Whisper in My Mask, curated by Natalie King and Djon Mundine, is the fourth iteration of this signature event on the national exhibition calendar.

Inaugurated in 2006 to identify new developments in contemporary art practice, the Biennial allows artists to present new work at the unique TarraWarra Museum of Art, highlighting pivotal aspects of Australian practice under an experimental curatorial platform.

Significantly, this is the first time that the TarraWarra Biennial has been curated by a collaborative duo comprising an Indigenous and non-Indigenous curator, following on from the successful tour of their 2012/13 Asialink exhibition Shadowlife to Taiwan, Singapore, Bangkok and Bendigo, with record attendances.

This year the Biennial includes the work of: boat-people (Safdar Ahmed, Zehra Ahmed, Stephanie Carrick, Dave Gravina, Katie Hepworth, Jiann Hughes, Deborah Kelly, Enda Murray, Pip Shea, Sumugan Sivanesan, Jamil Yamani) (NSW), Daniel Boyd (NSW), Søren Dahlgaard (VIC), Destiny Deacon & Virginia Fraser (VIC), Karla Dickens (NSW), Fiona Foley (QLD), Tony Garifalakis (VIC), Sandra Hill (WA), Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano (VIC), Romaine Moreton (VIC), Nasim Nasr (SA), Polixeni Papapetrou (VIC), Elizabeth Pedler (WA), Sangeeta Sandrasegar (VIC), The Telepathy Project (Veronica Kent and Sean Peoples) (VIC) and The Tjanpi Desert Weavers Project with Fiona Hall (SA/NT/WA).

Taking a line from the evocative song ‘Art Groupie’ (1981) by Grace Jones, the title of this year’s Biennial, Whisper in My Mask, signals an exploration of masking, secrets and hidden narratives as psychological states:

Touch Me in a Picture,
Wrap Me in a Cast,
Kiss Me in a Sculpture,
Whisper in My Mask

The mask in its multifarious forms and functions can both reveal and conceal personas: it can protect, beautify, frighten or pacify, universalise or eternalise, intensifying and amplifying expression. In a selection of works that elicit an emotional and sensory response, the Biennial will return us to human senses and the Aboriginal Djambarrpuyngu people’s palate, experienced on a scale from ‘monuk’ (salt) to rapine (sweet). Moreover, masking suggests altered states of reverie and otherworldliness intertwined with hidden narratives, local mysteries and parapsychology.

Disguise manifests as trace, inscription, erasure, secrets, camouflage, whisperings, dreamings and subterfuge. These ideas will infiltrate the Biennial as a series of trigger points by incorporating a range of artworks including sound, video, performance and participatory installation by cross-generational Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists.

The curators have undertaken extensive research and field work to cities and remote communities in order to select Aboriginal and non-indigenous artists working across diverse media. Having worked at Ramingining and Maningrida, Djon Mundine has extensive networks in rural communities as well as affiliations with emerging and established artists in various cities.

This significant experience will be deployed alongside Natalie King’s expertise in photography and moving image practices to ensure a ground-breaking Biennial. Together, their collaborative curatorial methodology will interrogate the work of lesser known artists alongside more established artists.

“The TarraWarra Biennial, one of only two biennials of Australian art held in this country, is dedicated to showcasing contemporary and innovative works by Australian artists,” says TarraWarra Museum of Art Director, Victoria Lynn.

“The fourth TarraWarra Biennial will provide visitors with a must-see opportunity to witness a significant number of Indigenous artists alongside their non-Indigenous contemporaries.”

The Tarrawarra Biennial runs from 16 August to 16 November 2014. For more information, visit: www.twma.com.au for details.

Image: Nasim Nasr, Unveiling the Veil 2010 (still), single channel video, silent, 6:21 min