Sydney Biennale: Revolutions-Forms That Turn

By Patrick, Martin | Art Monthly, September 2008 | Go to article overview

Sydney Biennale: Revolutions-Forms That Turn


Patrick, Martin, Art Monthly


Sydney Biennale: Revolutions--Forms That Turn

Various venues June 18 to September 7

Reviewers of major international biennales have a tendency to adopt one of three approaches: to lavishly overpraise, virtually overlook, or summarily dismiss the exhibition at hand. Thankfully the most recent Sydney Biennale does not necessitate any of these familiar strategies; moreover, the exhibition carries in its wake much to consider, in terms of both its positive and its problematic characteristics. Curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev has offered up a large-scale panoramic exhibition spread throughout an eclectic variety of venues, showcasing in unequal parts a 1968 nostalgia trip, a generous dose of Arte Povera, and only a few emerging artists. The biennale features primarily historical--that is to say, near-canonical--works that literally spin, turn, or are otherwise engaged in movement, befitting its awkward title 'Revolutions--Forms That Turn'. This conflation of theoretical and political notions of revolution with a repetitious use of formal literalism is ultimately tendentious and unclear. But clarity does not often make for successful curatorial ventures. The most important ally for contemporary curators can be the ever-elusive notion of surprise.

Unfortunately, surprises are relatively limited here given the neo avant-garde, history by the book approach on view. For example, painting, despite its notable resurgence during the past decade, is generally limited to post-conceptual and proto-performance strategies. By contrast, the hefty catalogue features many preliminary drawings and sketches (thus allowing it to be published on schedule without on-site documentation of the biennale). Nonetheless, as the biennale was organised with a comparatively small budget (reputed to be under A$3m) in relation to its scale, it's impressive that so many distinctive projects and works have been brought together in Sydney.

Much of the historical material chosen by Christov-Bakargiev is altogether crucial to an understanding of contemporary art and is well presented. It includes much from key figures from the 60s to 80s: seminal works by Adrian Piper, Dan Graham, Lawrence Weiner, Jean Tinguely and Giuseppe Penone, and a captivating new installation by Joan Jonas. There is also a nice effect in viewing the original footage of Carolee Schneemann's Meat Joy, 1964, only to realise that it bears more resemblance to a quaint recital than an anarchic orgy. One surprise choice is the eccentric Czech photographer Miroslav Tichy, whose work consists of clandestine snapshots taken with homemade cameras. (Tichy was 'discovered' earlier by Harald Szeemann, who included his work in the 2004 Seville Biennial.) Climbing into a hammock in 'Quasi-cinemas', 1973, Helio Oiticica and Neville D'Almeida's psychedelic riposte to Brazilian martial law, to bliss out to Jimi Hendrix, afforded a welcome Tropicalian retreat from the march through the Museum of Contemporary Art.

What links kinetic artists to the Gutai group? How do Peter Fischli & David Weiss's precarious table-top photographs relate to Joseph Beuys's didactic social forays? Is Olafur Eliasson's wobbly Light ventilator mobile of 2002 actually informed by its direct proximity to a sample of Calder's old-school geometric elegance? Perhaps the nadir of this approach places Rodchenko's hanging constructions, Maurizio Cattelan's flaccidly suspended taxidermied horse, and Rodney Graham's satires of School of Paris mediocrity all in one room. In this competitive environment, conceptual and formal confusion reigns.

The Gallery of New South Wales houses most of its offerings downstairs, so that one descends directly into a labyrinthine and often cluttered arrangement. Helping to punctuate this trajectory are a series of nine monitors placed at sporadic intervals near the ceiling depicting Francis Alys undergoing a number of pratfalls (Choques, 2005-06). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Sydney Biennale: Revolutions-Forms That Turn
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.