Biennale of Sydney

Brook Andrew, Briefing Speech | 12 September 2019

The urgent states of our contemporary lives are laden with unresolved past anxieties and hidden layers of the supernatural. NIRIN is about to expose this, demonstrating that artists and creatives have the power to resolve, heal, dismember and imagine futures of transformation for re-setting the world. Sovereignty is at the centre of these actions, and shines a light on environments in shadow. I hope that NIRIN gathers life forces of integrity to push through often impenetrable confusion. 

Optimism from chaos drives artists in NIRIN to resolve the often hidden or ignored urgency surrounding contemporary life.  

Through performance, spoken word and working together, the Brazilian performance artist Jota Mombaça creates her own futures of power, acknowledging the disasters of the past, and invites us to go on journeys of remembering that we can indeed transform into something else that is not overall a disaster. Karla Dickens, an Australian Wiradjuri artist, creates immersive installation that evokes sovereignty empowering us to remember that the ‘crazed’ is often a better centre to be in. 

NIRIN artists aim to break down, re-define and rip apart strong frontier narratives and actions on restitution that are often ignored. The representation of African and Indigenous bodies and objects confront old wounds. Congolese artist Sammy Baloji unpacks and holds a mirror up to the tyranny of this mess along-side Australian Kaytej film-maker/artist Warwick Thornton who will present a hyperactive film, a visual romp retelling the story of Ned Kelly using a modern context. 

NIRIN will empower artists presenting challenging views of the world like André Eugène, leader of Haitian’s provocative Atis Razistans movement, in his towering edgy voodoo sculptures created from found materials reflecting on life, death, humour and sex.  

Artist Joël Andrianomearisoa, representing Madagascar in the current Venice Biennale, will shroud us in light and dark reflecting on the duality of life.  

We’ll witness the power of Brazilian artist Rosana Paulino with her representations of dismembered hands and bodies re-telling and remembering the shocking slave history of Brazil – a legacy that still feeds wealthy countries food and coffee in its ongoing inter-generational trauma.  

Similarly, the South American Colectivo Ayllu will take us on an immersive journey to send home messages of the realities of how strategically heinous crimes pervade and affect lives today, especially relating to organised religious and colonial prejudice on people of colour and non-heteronormative lifestyles. 

Powerful depictions by photojournalists such as the collective Shaheed / Witness / Kashmir, Māori photographer John Miller, and South African artist Musa N. Nxumalo punch through the status-quo.  

While artists such as the international collective Adrift Lab, Australia’s Andrew Rewald, Kim Williams and Lucas Ihlein, and Canadian Randy Lee Cutler, are all working to promote our individual responsibility as custodians to other lifeforms on this planet. 

From 14 March – 8 June 2020, the works of these 110 artists, creatives and collectives will be exhibited – free for all to enjoy – at six sites: 

• Art Gallery of NSW 

• Artspace  

• Campbelltown Arts Centre  

• Cockatoo Island  

• Museum of Contemporary Art Australia   

• the National Art School