Friday, 6 August 2010

The Sydney Biennale that was...

The thing that always strikes me about every Sydney Biennale is the title. 2002 it was (The World May Be) Fantastic, 2004- On Reason and Emotion- 2008, Revolution, Forms That Turn. So what did 2010 have in store for us? The 17th Biennale of Sydney- The Beauty of Distance. I often pause to wonder as I enter the Museum of Contemporary Art or step onto Coockatoo Island who comes up with these evasive and truly stereotypically 'arty' titles for the exhibtion which takes over Sydney every two years.
Rodney Glick, Everyone No. 75, 2009

Speaking of Cockatoo Island, that is arguably where the best of the BOS (as it's come to be known) resides. Work by Brook Andrew, Cai Guo- Quang, Daniel Crooks and Rodney Glick definate standouts. However, I have always been a fan of Glick's work so I am no doubt easily swayed. Brook Andrew's Jumping Castle War Memorial seems to be setting a trend for the artist and I cant help but draw comparisons between his BOS work and his latest work The Cell which was recently commissioned by Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation.

Brook Andrew, Jumping Castle War Memorial, 2010

It's difficult to miss the work of Roxy Paine as the sculptural work dominates the MCA lawn. Neuron draws as much attention from the widlife of Circular Quay as from its people and references how knowledge and experience are transmitted through the body.

Roxy Paine, Neuron, 2010

However, for me, by far the most interesting and dare I say humourous work in the MCA and arguably in the entire Biennale was that of Christian Jankowski. His video work Live from the inside: Tableaux Vivant TV explores the ancient art of tableaux vivant in various scenarios throughout modern Sydney. One would have to be blind not to sense the humour within this work as well known TV journalists, art proffessionals and the artist himself are captured, freeze- framed, in various acts and scenarios. With comentary by Andrew Frost, I should have known this was no ordinary video installation. While the work ran for more than 20 minutes I found myself unable to look away and when it was over I was only too keen to watch it again. I can say with absolute certainty that I have never, ever in my life wanted to watch a video work twice- in most cases once was more than enough.

Christian Jankowski, Live from Inside: Tableaux Vivant TV, 2010

So what's the verdict. Is this BOS better than the last? Or, as I suspect is the case, are we stuck in some sort of stalemate, frozen in a tableaux vivant, where the same art and the same artists produce the same standard of work year after year. While there were some undeniably key players in this years exhibition and the appearence of British artist Steve McQueen did not go unoticed (however, after seeing his work at the Venice Biennale and subsequently falling asleep through it, I really wasn't all that thrilled) there was, as there seems to be ever year, a sense that something is missing. The 17th Biennale of Sydney was aptly called The Beauty of Distance. Quite perceptive really and I saught to get away...

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Thursday, 5 August 2010

Kathy Yeh: 410KG/ Second

Kathy Yeh, Thirst II, 2010

Kathy Yeh
410KG/ Second
Kudos Gallery, 20- 31 July 2010

With such an abundance of bad art out there it's often quite miraculous to happen upon an exhinition that challenges this perhaps broad generalisation. But that's what the new work by Kathy Yeh does, and does well

Kathy Yeh, Thirst II (detail) 2010

The seven works which fill the large gallery space hold their own yet function cohesively as a complete body of work. Thirst II is stunning with its glasses filled with water lined up along a shelf illuminated by blue light. Upon closer inspection words and images can be seen behind several of the glasses, beautifully distorted by the glowing blue liquid. If the viewer is to scan the work from left to right a hidden message is revealed- but it is not up to me to tell you what this is. You must see for yourself.

Kathy Yeh, Thirst I (detail) 2010

Thirst I, reminiscent of Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty, dominates the floor space and finds its significance through its fragility. Kurnell, displayed on the stage at the far end of the gallery, glows in the darkened space like a beacon, the artist transforming a rustic, old water tank into a thing of beauty and delicacy.

Kathy Yeh, Kurnell (detail) 2010

Yeh's work is all at once intriguing and a refreshing change.

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