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In the free guide to the 17th Biennale of Sydney, Artistic Director David Elliot says that: “The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age (Biennale’s theme) is made by people of all kinds and origin…We are all the same, but different…” Besides sounding like a Thai t-shirt slogan, Elliot’s address is confusing, contradictory and screams the fact that the convoluted theme is a guise for a lack of one in the first place. The 120 works by 56 artists displayed in Cockatoo Island stand as testimony to this. Besides being a smorgasbord of anything goes, the exhibits were displayed in a haphazard manner suggesting a poorly thought out use of space. For example, the video Crudo by Miguel Angel Rios was screened in front of a circular room with a huge pillar awkwardly standing in the middle of it. Whilst spaces which were better suited for installations with more physical presence were instead used for (way too many) video installations, Cai Guo-Qiang’s Inopportune: Stage One, a suspension of nine cars frozen in a succession of an explosion, roused instant awe by simply maximising the high ceilings of the Turbine Hall. The other stand-outs, all audio-video installations, were the poignant Green Mouse by Adel Abidin, a fantastic take on Kevin Rudd’s apology speech in 2008 by Mieskuoro Huutajat (Shouting Men’s Choir) and a warning of excesses told through shots of photographic perfection in AES+F’s The Feast of Trimalchio. Special mention goes to Daniel Crooks’ time-spice video Static No.12 and a cheeky Song of Manhattan Suicide Addict by Yayoi Kusama. To enjoy Biennale at Cockatoo Island, go on a sunny day without expectation or inhibition.

Until 1 Aug, cockatooisland.gov.au, bos17.com, biennaleofsydney.com.au


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