18th Biennale of Sydney
June 27 – September 16
One of the more intriguing exhibitions on Cockatoo Island at this years Biennale of Sydney is the work “He Dreamed Overtime” by the German born, Toronto based artist Iris Haussler.
The work which is subtitled “A novel in three dimensions” involves an elaborate invented narrative intertwining two stories which revolve around 73 coral-like objects which have been “discovered” in one of the sealed up caves on the island.
Stanley Dusk, a pest expert found these works and has been examining and researching these pieces. They are in fact made of beeswax and manufactured by a park ranger, Ted Wilson who has since disappeared.
The visitor to the house where the exhibition is set up can discover the story by examining the beeswax construction, looking at the research material which includes letters and diagrams and maps. They can also be aided by exhibition assistants who outline the story. Left to themselves the visitor may also find a cordoned off room which they might enter and also discover a barricaded room in which it is possible to see a decomposing or desiccated body, possibly made of beeswax.
The exhibition as well as being complex with a fascinating series of interconnecting stories and myths is also an elaborate metaphor about creativity and the process of making art.
There are a number of works by aboriginal Australians which combine the traditional and contemporary. Alick Tipoti’s “Girelel” which tells of traditional dance, singing and hunting takes the form of a Greek frieze with profiles of figures set against patterned backgrounds.
The drawings of Nyapanyapa Yunupingu are a mixture of simple totemic images and sophisticated cartoons and in her work they have been combined in a computer aided display whereby various drawing are mixed and overlaid. This results in a new version of Dreamtime with the images conjuring up a personal and social history.
In “City of Ghost” the Thai artist Nipan Oranniwesna has produced a large (about ten metres square) model of a city. Based on a combination of ten city maps the work is made of a talcum powder, sifted through maps with holes where all the buildings had been carefully cut out, leaving only the roads.
Another remarkably skilled work is by Liu Zhuoquon with his “Where are you” consisting of hundreds of different sized bottles, from flagon size to small medicine bottle. He has painted the interior of each one with a special brush so the black interiors seem to be housing the skins of snakes or serpents.
There are several exhibits where there has been a crafts approach to the work. Alan Michelson has produced a series of model houses based on nineteenth century frontier cabins. These are embellished with words from various papers and documents including many which relate to the history of the Cherokee Nation and their language.
Also, working in a craft tradition is Yuken Teruya who has created intricate little diorama of carved trees inside shopping bags in a clever little commentary on traditional arts, consumerism and Japanese quest for the latest fad.
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