Biennale of Sydney

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21st Biennale of Sydney attracts visitation of more than 850,000

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Mit Jai Inn, 'Planes (Hover, Erupt, Erode)', 2018 (detail), mixed media installation with paintings. Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Neilson Foundation. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Cockatoo Island. Photograph: Zan Wimberley. Courtesy the artist and SA SA BASSAC, Phnom Penh

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Ciara Phillips, 'Workshop', 2010–ongoing, installation and print studio, dimensions variable. Presentation at the 21st Biennale of Sydney was made possible with generous assistance from the Consulate General of Canada in Sydney, the British Council and Glasgow Print Studios. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Photograph: Zan Wimberley. Courtesy the artist

2018 marked the 45th anniversary of the Biennale of Sydney

The 21st Biennale of Sydney attracted visitation of more than 850,000 in 2018, the highest level in its long history, reaffirming its position as one of the most important contemporary art events around the world.

SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium & Engagement, curated by Artistic Director Mami Kataoka, presented over 300 works by 69 artists and artist collectives from 35 countries at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Artspace, Carriageworks, Cockatoo Island, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney Opera House and 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art.



Curatorial Statement

The 21st Biennale of Sydney examines the world today by borrowing the word ‘superposition’, the quantum mechanical term that refers to an overlapping situation. Microscopic substances like electrons are said to be dualistic in nature: they paradoxically exist in the form of waves and granular particles simultaneously. The state of superposition lies across all conceptual levels: from different climates and cultures to views of nature and the cosmic orders, conceptions of Mother Earth and interpretations of land ownership, readings of human history and conditions, the history of modern and contemporary art and the meaning of abstractions. The 21st Biennale of Sydney offers a panoramic view of how they all come together in a state of 'equilibrium', while delving into the workings of individual phenomena, considering the equivalence of these opposing notions through the lens of 'engagement'.

According to the theory of Wuxing in ancient Chinese natural philosophy, everything in this world is made up five main elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Each of these elements gives rise to the next element, either through a process of symbiosis, where one element encourages the formation of the others, or a situation of mutual conflict and antagonism, in which each element resists and suppresses the others. These reciprocal relationships are regulating the cardinal directions, the seasons, colours, our bodily organs and functions, and emotions. In reality, a diversity of elements come together in a state of repeated collision, collapse and rebirth at each level, and today we seem to be witnessing an accelerated process of antagonistic conflict between different standards of value, faiths and beliefs, and political systems.

The participating artists in the 21st Biennale of Sydney were not chosen to represent or symbolise a particular theme. By placing these artworks, oriented towards diverse concerns and issues which resonate with overall perspectives of the Biennale on multiple levels, across seven venues in the city of Sydney, it is my hope that the Biennale as a whole will serve as a microcosm of the history of Earth, the human race, and a condensed version of the history of Sydney. From the repeatedly overlapping value systems contained within, the Biennale will encourage us to consider how all things in this world interact with complementarity in a state of equilibrium and engagement. Taking Sydney in 2018 as a starting point, the 21st Biennale of Sydney SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium & Engagement promises to be a creative and critical experience for observing the world.

Mami Kataoka

Artistic Director of the 21st Biennale of Sydney

Internationally renowned curator Mami Kataoka is a key figure in analysing socio-historical and generational trends, particularly in the context of Japanese and Asian art, and frequently writes and lectures on contemporary art in Asia.