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.
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.”
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).
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.
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.