MASTERSTROKE // 20th biennale of sydney




Chiharu Shiota ‘Conscious Sleep’ (beds, thread, wool)


Emma McNally ‘Choral Field 2’ (graphite, carbon on paper)


Camille Henrot ‘Retreat From Investment’, ‘Personal Development 2’, ‘Dependent Personality Disorder 2’ (bronze)


William Forsythe ‘Nowhere and everywhere at the same time, No. 2’ (plumb bobs, string, compressed air cylinders, aluminium frames)

Cockatoo Island is a gorgeous spot on Sydney harbour with a historic and industrial feel due to it’s origin as a convict settlement and then a shipyard. Not only is it a great camping spot but it’s the perfect backdrop for art exhibitions like the 20th Biennale of Sydney. As Australia’s largest contemporary visual arts event with works from all around the world, the theme this year is ‘Embassy of the Real’. This concept represents the spaces between the virtual and physical worlds, as well as the physicality of the human body.

Chiharu Shiota has an intricate piece woven within the old prisoners barracks that feels like a surreal tangled web made of hundreds of metres of black thread. Atmospheric and otherworldly, this dreamlike scape with knotted threads symbolises the links between thought and memory. It also embodies how the nerves connect to the brain from the conscious mind to your dreams as well as the connections for how we exchange information digitally. 

Emma McNally’s large-scale cartographic drawings explore the space between the virtual and the real by mapping the world in multiple layers. Looking like detailed charts or diagrams, her meticulous drawings are like maps of a mindscape that transcends the body. 

Camille Henrot voluptuous bronze forms are set against the video ‘Grosse Fatigue’ to reflect how we are bombarded with endless images and data every day that we try to absorb and understand. The sculptures bring in the tactile element to counteract the digital with the physical.

William Forsythe’s installation of swinging metal weights was definitely the most interactive (and fun) installations. The concept is to weave around the strings as they move and with the accompanying music you can see the artist’s choreographic influence as you feel like you’re dancing with rhythmic movements.

What a combination: the world-heritage listed location, the intriguing artworks, the thought-provoking theme… overall the experience is magical!