Biennale of Sydney

Curatorial Statement

The Curatorium

José Roca

Artistic Director, 23rd Biennale of Sydney

Paschal Daantos Berry
Anna Davis
Hannah Donnelly
Talia Linz

Rivers, wetlands and other salt and freshwater ecosystems feature in the 23rd Biennale of Sydney (2022), titled rīvus, as dynamic living systems with varying degrees of political agency. Indigenous knowledges have long understood non-human entities as living ancestral beings with a right to life that must be protected. But only recently have animals, plants, mountains and bodies of water been granted legal personhood. If we can recognise them as individual beings, what might they say?

rīvus invites several aqueous beings into a dialogue with artists, architects, designers, scientists, and communities, entangling multiple voices and other modes of communication to ask unlikely questions: Can a river sue us over psychoactive sewage? Will oysters grow teeth in aquatic revenge? What do the eels think? Are the swamp oracles speaking in tongues? Do algae reminisce about the days of primordial soup? Are waves the ocean’s desire? Can a waterfall refuse gravity? Considering the water ecology’s perspective entails a fundamental shift in understanding our relationship with the rest of the natural world as a porous chronicle of interwoven fates.

Rivers are the sediment of culture. They are givers of life, routes of communication, places of ritual, sewers and mass graves. They are witnesses and archives, our memory. As such, they have also been co-opted as natural avenues for the colonial enterprise, becoming sites of violent conflict driven by greed, exploitation and the thirst to possess. Indeed, the latin root rīvus, meaning a brook or stream, is also at the origin of the word rivalry.

The 23rd Biennale of Sydney is articulated around a series of conceptual wetlands situated along waterways of the Gadigal and Barramattagal peoples. These imagined ecosystems are populated by artworks, experiments, activisms and research, which together follow the currents of meandering tributaries, expanding out into a delta of interrelated ideas including river horror, creek futurism, Indigenous science, cultural flows, ancestral technologies, counter-mapping, queer ecologies, multispecies justice, hydrofeminism, water healing, spirit streams, fish philosophy and sustainable methods of co-existence.

Sustainability should be an action, not a theme. rīvus will reflect on its own conditions of possibility, becoming the catalyst for works already in progress; encouraging the use of non-polluting materials and production processes; advocating for locality, collectivity, collaboration and reduced waste; acknowledging its own impact on the environment while aiming to lower it through a systemic and creative approach.


Abel Rodríguez (Mogaje Guihu)
Ackroyd & Harvey
Alex Cerveny
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
Alta Tecnología Andina (ATA)
Aluaiy Kaumakan
Ana Barboza and Rafael Freyre
Arts for the Commons (A4C)
Badger Bates
Barthélémy Toguo
Zheng Bo
Caio Reisewitz
Carolina Caycedo
Casino Wake Up Time
Cave Urban
Cian Dayrit
Clare Milledge
Clemencia Echeverri
D Harding
David Haines & Joyce Hinterding
Diana Scherer
Dineo Seshee Bopape
Duke Riley
Embassy of the North Sea
Erin Coates
Eva L’Hoest
Gal Weinstein
Hanna Tuulikki
Hera Büyüktaşcıyan
Iltja Ntjarra (Many Hands) Art Centre
Imhathai Suwatthanasilp
Jenna Sutela
Jessie French
Joey Holder
John Kelly & Rena Shein
Juliana Góngora Rojas
Julie Gough
Jumana Emil Abboud
Kiki Smith
Komunidad X Sipat Lawin
Latent Community
Leanne Tobin
Leeroy New
Marguerite Humeau
Marjetica Potrč with Ray Woods
Mata Aho Collective
Matias Duville
Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson
Mike Parr
Milton Becerra
Moogahlin Performing Arts with Aanmitaagzi Big Medicine Studio
New Landscapes Institute (Joni Taylor, Ben Blakebrough, M.A.C Studio + Ant Farm)
New-Territories _ S/he _f.Roche
Paula de Solminihac
Pushpa Kumari
Qavavau Manumie
Robert Andrew
Senior Craftsman Rex Greeno and son Dean Greeno
Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe
Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi
STARTTS (NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors) and Jiva Parthipan
Tabita Rezaire
Tania Candiani
Teho Ropeyarn
The Great Animal Orchestra
Will Benedict
Wura-Natasha Ogunji
Yoan Capote
Yuko Mohri