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The 22nd Biennale of Sydney: Nirin presents 101 artists, 700 works and 600 events over 87 days
Installation view.

SYDNEY.- The Biennale of Sydney – the third oldest biennial in the world after Venice and São Paulo and largest exhibition of its kind in Australia – has launched its 22nd edition, taking place from 14 March – 8 June 2020. Titled NIRIN, the 2020 edition presents a diverse range of contemporary artworks spanning from video and photography to installations and performances, across six different venues in Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, Artspace, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Cockatoo Island, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and the National Art School.

Under the artistic direction of acclaimed Indigenous Australian artist Brook Andrew, this expansive exhibition of contemporary art and events brings together 700 works by 101 international artists and collectives – including 39 Australian artists – many of which have been specifically commissioned for the occasion. Titled NIRIN, or edge – a word of Andrew’s mother’s Nation, the Wiradjuri people of western New South Wales, the exhibition pushes audiences the see beyond what they know, to challenge history, to be a part of the story and to immerse themselves in inspiration and imagined futures.

Highlights include Pitjantjatjara artist, activist and leader Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams’s (1952–2019) large-scale political protest piece created with the young men in his community, his widow Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin and his lifelong friend and collaborator Sammy Dodd following his passing last year (AGNSW); Tennant C reek Brio’s dynamic series of paintings on discarded western objects that draw inspiration from their experiences at home in the Northern Territory (Artspace); Gamilaroi/Gomeroi Murri Yinah photographer Barbara McGrady’s presentation of her life’s work as a kaleidoscopic compendium of contemporary Aboriginal history (Campbelltown Arts Centre); Ibrahim Mahama’s epic installation of sewn coal sacks in the Turbine Hall on Cockatoo Island; visual activist and photographer Zanele Muholi’s presentation of three bodies of work that look at the politics of race, gender and sexuality (Museum of Contemporary Art Australia); and, Hannah Catherine Jones’s audio-visual work using pop-cultural and archival material, poetic motifs and provocative imagery to tell a story of the African diaspora (National Art School).

The public program – NIRIN WIR meaning edge of the sky – includes over 600 events, with the vast majority free and open to all. This extensive program of live and site-specific artist activations proposes new ways for audiences to experience contemporary art, share time and learn from one other. 

Highlights of the program include NIRIN HAIVETA, a restored ferry featuring traditional tattoo markings celebrating and honouring women of the Pacific Islands that will transport students free of charge from Circular Quay to Cockatoo Island every weekday and will hop between Sydney Olympic Park Wharf and Cockatoo Island on Saturdays; the To cook Cook or not? debate featuring performances by Thelma Plum and Ripple Effect at Sydney Town Hall; Stories We Never Tell, a performative walking tour at the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct; 4ESydney HipHop Festival and Bankstown Poetry Slam on Cockatoo Island, and related artist talks, tours and workshops for young people and families every weekend and during school holidays.

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