Biennale of Sydney

12/03/2022 - 13/06/2022

Artistic Director: José Roca

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, Barramatagal and Cabrogal 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.

The 2022 exhibition has been developed and realised by a Curatorium including:

  • José Roca, Artistic Director, 23rd Biennale of Sydney
  • Paschal Daantos Berry, Head of Learning and Participation, Art Gallery of New South Wales
  • Anna Davis, Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
  • Hannah Donnelly, Producer, First Nations Programs, Information + Cultural Exchange (I.C.E.)
  • Talia Linz, Curator, Artspace

23rd Biennale of Sydney: rīvus (2022) report

Creative Direction and Design

Zolo Studio (Arno Baudin) with Base Design (Daniel Peterson and Owen Cramp)

Type Design

Virgile Flores

Artistic Director

José Roca

José Roca is a curator and Artistic Director of FLORA ars+natura, an independent space for contemporary art in Bogotá, and curator of the LARA collection, Singapore. He was the Estrellita B. Brodsky Adjunct Curator of Latin American Art at Tate, London (2012-2015) and managed the arts program at the Banco de la República (MAMU) in Bogotá. José was a co-curator of the I Poly/graphic Triennial in San Juan, Puerto Rico (2004), the 27th Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil (2006) and was the Artistic Director of Philagrafika 2010. He served on the awards jury for the 52nd Venice Biennial (2007) and is the author of Transpolitical: art in Colombia 1992-2012 (with Sylvia Suárez), and Waterweavers: A Chronicle of Rivers (with Alejandro Martín).



A Glossary of Water
Space In Between
Arts for the Commons (A4C)
Atrato River
Jumana Emil Abboud
Ackroyd & Harvey
Alta Tecnología Andina (ATA)
Robert Andrew
Baaka/Darling river
Ana Barboza and Rafael Freyre
Badger Bates
Milton Becerra
Will Benedict
Birrarung / Yarra River
Dineo Seshee Bopape
Boral River
Burramatta River
Hera Büyüktaşcıyan
Tania Candiani
Canowindra Fossil Slab #84
Yoan Capote
Casino Wake Up Time
Cave Urban
Carolina Caycedo
Alex Cerveny
Erin Coates
Cian Dayrit
Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson
Matias Duville
Dyarubbin/Hawkesbury River Placenames
Clemencia Echeverri
Embassy of the North Sea with Xandra van der Eijk 
Nicole Foreshew
Virgile Flores
Jessie French
John Gerrard
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg
Juliana Góngora Rojas
Julie Gough
Senior Craftsman Rex Greeno and son Dean Greeno
David Haines & Joyce Hinterding
Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe
D Harding
Joey Holder
Marguerite Humeau
Iltja Ntjarra (Many Hands) Art Centre
Aluaiy Kaumakan
John Kelly & Rena Shein
Pushpa Kumari
Eva L’Hoest
Latent Community
Living Seawalls
Julia Lohmann
Gail Mabo
Qavavau Manumie
Nuwandjali Marawili
Martuwarra River
Mata Aho Collective
Naziha Mestaoui
Clare Milledge
Yuko Mohri
Moogahlin Performing Arts with Aanmitaagzi Big Medicine Studio
Napo River
National Committee of the Friends of Myall Creek and local First Nations Community
Leeroy New
New Landscapes Institute (Joni Taylor, Ben Blakebrough, M.A.C Studio + Ant Farm)
Wura-Natasha Ogunji
Mike Parr
Outi Pieski
Marjetica Potrč with Ray Woods
Caio Reisewitz
Tabita Rezaire
Duke Riley
Abel Rodríguez (Mogaje Guihu)
Teho Ropeyarn
Diana Scherer
Kiki Smith
Paula de Solminihac
STARTTS (NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors) and Jiva Parthipan
Jenna Sutela
Imhathai Suwatthanasilp
The Great Animal Orchestra – Bernie Krause & United Visual Artists
Leanne Tobin
Barthélémy Toguo
Torres Strait 8
Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi
Hanna Tuulikki
Vilcabamba River
Gal Weinstein
Zenadh Kes
Zheng Bo