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The Biennale of Sydney - On the Edge of Sydney’s Centre

Announcing the 22nd Biennale of Sydney that will take place next year from March 14 to June 8, 2020 across different venues of Sydney on the theme of ‘NIRIN’, meaning edge.

by Sukanya Garg Jun 27, 2019

The Biennale of Sydney is a renowned exhibition of international contemporary art, the third oldest biennale in the world after Venice and São Paulo and the largest exhibition of its kind in Australia. The 22nd Biennale of Sydney will take place from March 14 to June 8, 2020, at the Art Gallery of NSW, Artspace, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Cockatoo Island, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and the National Art School in Sydney. The Biennale has been titled NIRIN. Reflecting on the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages, NIRIN is an important time to advocate for First Nation languages in the mainstream. Meaning edge, NIRIN is a word of the Biennale’s artistic director Brook Andrew’s mother’s nation, the Wiradjuri people of western New South Wales.

A group of exhibiting artists with the artistic director of Biennale of Sydney 2020, NIRIN Image Credit: Joshua Morris

Brook Andrew added: “NIRIN is not a periphery, it is our centre, and it expresses dynamic existing and ancient practices that speak loudly. NIRIN decentres, challenges and transforms dominant narratives, such as the 2020 Captain Cook anniversary in Australia and reorients Western mapping, shining a light on sites of being that are often ignored or rendered invisible. NIRIN is an inspirational journey driven by stories and grass-root practices, realised through twisting perceptions, moments of transition and a sense of being in the world that is interconnected.”

Gina Athena Ulysse is one of the artists lined-up for Biennale of Sydney 2020, NIRIN Image Credit: Joshua Morris

Seven themes inspire NIRIN: DHAAGUN (Earth: sovereignty and working together); BAGARAY-BANG (healing); YIRAWY–DHURAY (Yam-Connection: food); GURRAY (Transformation); MURIGUWAL GIILAND  (Different Stories); NGAWAAL-GUYUNGAN (Powerful-Ideas: The power of objects); and  BILA (River: environment).

Leuli Eshraghi, smoking ceremony, Biennale of Sydney 2020, NIRIN Image Credit: Joshua Morris

The Biennale will see participation from 33 artists, creatives and collectives. Jo-Anne Birnie-Danzker, Director and CEO of the Biennale of Sydney, spoke of the significance of the 22nd Biennale as an artist-and First Nation-led endeavour, and its spirit of collaboration. According to Danzker, “The Biennale of Sydney plays an indispensable role in Australia’s engagement with the world, and a meaningful role in the life of the nation. In 2018, it attracted visitation of more than 850,000, the highest level in the Biennale’s 45-year history.

Gina Athena Ulysse, smoking ceremony, Biennale of Sydney 2020, NIRIN Image Credit: Joshua Morris

In the 2020 edition, some of the artists, creatives and collectives participating will include: Australian First Nation artist Tony Albert; South African artist Lhola Amira, Australian First New Guinean artist Eric Bridgeman; Sāmoan-Persian-Australian artist Léuli Eshrãghi; artist and musician Nicholas Galanin from Sitka, Alaska; American cinematographer and artist Arthur Jafa; Australian chef and creative Kylie Kwong; Australian First Nation photographer Barbara McGrady; Austrian artist and curator Katarina Matiasek; Australian First Nation artist S. J Norman; Māori multimedia artist Lisa Reihana; and, USA-based Haitian artist-anthropologist-activist Gina Athena Ulysse.

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About Author

Sukanya Garg

Sukanya Garg

Garg is an artist and writer with a Masters degree in Public Policy from Duke University, USA. She has been involved in research, planning and execution of gallery exhibitions and external projects in collaboration with curators. Her writing has been published in several art magazines, journals and as part of curatorial notes and catalogues, and her work has been showcased in multiple exhibitions.

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