Here is a review for the 17th Sydney Biennale for a student-run, monash-orientated magazine called zeitgeist:

On the morn of the12th May dewy eyed painting students queued up at Melbourne Airport for their flight to Sydney. For a large number of years now the Painting Department has organized group trips to experience the Biennale of Sydney. Housed in 7 different locations around Sydney, this year’s biennale like most, have artworks that can be awe-inspiring, some disposable and many snuggled in between.

The sky was clear and blue over the harbour as a friend and I munched down some breakfast, just in time to miss the first ferry of the day to Cockatoo Island. Once reaching the somewhat picturesque island, the vast space and zero signage can leave one disorientated. However spotting what seems to be a giant black and white jumping castle comes as a relief. But however childlike it appears, Brook Andrew’s Jumping Castle War Memorial has a more serious undertone; it is a memorial to victims of genocide worldwide. On heading into the hanger-sized warehouse some things become apparent. Artworks appear to be simply set-up amongst metal scrap and rusting equipment. And so these scraps and crumbling interior as such are in most cases more intriguing than the artworks in question. Be that as it may there were many notable artists and their work such as Daniel Crooks’ peaceful, captivating video installation Static No.12 (seek stillness in movement). This expresses the fragility of aging and indeed the nature of time itself with an old man practicing Tai Chi; his figure slowly being digitally distorted.

Feeling privileged to be attending the artist talk by Rosslynd Piggott; the maturity and precision of this artist is evident. Shelter consisted of three rooms in one of the oldest cottages on the island. These rooms require physical engagement from the audience and hence provoking contemplation of space. Japan’s rich cultural history is addressed and integrated with that of colonial Australia whence this cottage was built. As you may or may not know Rosslynd Piggott currently teaches Third Year Painting at Monash, and it was a great experience to see one of my teachers in the business and talking about their own work. It is easy to get lost Cockatoo Island but exploring and finding these unexpected hidden treasures of video projections and other installations makes for a more rewarding and interesting experience.

The Museum for Contemporary Art is the other major venue for the Sydney Biennale. It is situated across from the harbour and greets you with a spectacular metal spider-looking sculpture with legs extending and lifting itself into the air. There isn’t a way to get distracted inside the four-storey building as on Cockatoo Island, except perhaps by the bookshop to buy that essential postcard.

When encountering Angela Ellsworth’s pieces many connotations arise. The bonnet shapes themselves can be symbols of a nineteenth century lady. However the pins of which they are made suggest a malice or injustice done toward these women. The intricacy in such handy-work is captivating. Such violence yet sweetness in Meanwhile, back at the ranch converge to create a contradiction to the traditional roles of women yet display the vicious cycle of domestic disturbance that never seems to change or disappear.

First impressions of Christian Jankowski’s work Live from the inside are of the superficial nature of the media. However after sitting and watching this video through, it is so much more. What appears as a process of developing an artwork actually becomes the artwork itself. His wit and humour are so refreshing, the dialogue and insight into what is so real for artists everywhere; questions about life and success as an artist. It is clearly poking fun but there is still a quiet honesty about it. Throughout the MCA there are some simply bizarre works by artists such as Rodney Graham, Mark Wallinger and Folkert de Jong. Then there are familiar names such as Louise Bourgeois, Jake and Dinos Chapman who do not disappoint

Being overwhelmed by four full days of non-stop art I grew weary to the idea of ever watching a multi-panel video installation again; however still appreciating the themes of trauma and experience of the past as well as looking to the future displayed at this years biennale. After three months of being on show the 17th Biennale of Sydney closes the 1st of August.