19th Biennale of Sydney

“You Imagine What You Desire” – the name itself evokes the 19th Biennale of Sydney  on now at Cockatoo Island, Art Gallery of New South Wales AGNSW,  Museum of Contemporary Art Australia MCA , Carriageworks and Artspace with works from more than 90 artists.   The Biennale of Sydney is the world’s third oldest biennale and today it ranks as one of the leading international festivals of contemporary art and continues to be recognised for presenting the freshest and most provocative art from Australia and around the world.

19th Biennale of Sydney Artistic Director Juliana Engberg says she created a temperament for each location.  In each location, sydneycool has chosen one work that represents the essence of the Biennale of Sydney for us – art that has touched us straight from the heart and the gut and to us when that happens it’s a special feeling – so here are our five.




At the MCA Australia at Circular Quay – Juliana describes as an aqueous and air space.  Our pick here is New York city artist Roni Horn’s work ’Ten Liquid Incidents’ – we’ve previously seen this work  at Punta Della Dogana in Venice – at the MCA Australia this work is of ten glass castings. Like frozen pools, mirrors or bottomless wells, you just want to sink into their eternity.


Roni Horn - sydney contemporary art - Biennale of Sydney

Roni Horn – Ten Liquid Incidents – 2010-12




sydneycool’s pick on Cockatoo Island – in the cavernous Turbine Hall Danish artist Eva Koch presents I Am The River (2012), a massive projection of Gljufrabui, the Icelandic waterfall, accompanied by a roaring soundtrack. This is completely overpowering and so beautiful in its location.





At Carriageworks – a great addition to the Biennale of Sydney locations – a first for the 19th Biennale.   This location looks at new works – Julianna Engberg describes this as ‘distilling film and video’.  We’ve selected a work in acrylic and oil by Finnish artist Anna Tuori – Nobody Knew My Rose.  On a large canvas, the artist presents a scene that’s like an old Christmas card – it’s as if you’ve wiped away steam from your bathroom mirror to reveal what you desire – love the small hand movement on the right.


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Anna Tuori – Nobody Knew My Rose 2013



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Closer view of hand on the right of Anna Tuori's work Nobody Knew My Rose




The Art Gallery of NSW location – Juliana Engberg describes this as ‘the beating heart’ – here are artists interested in commenting on society.  sydneycool’s choice – the video work ‘Two Shoots that Stretch Far Out’ by Sydney born New Zealand video and performance artist Shannon Te Ao.  We love this work, the artist recites to a menagerie of animals including a donkey, a wallaby and chickens.  This intimate experience is intriguing and at the same time deeply poetic.


Shannon Te Ao - sydney contemporary art - Biennale of Sydney

Shannon Te Ao Two Shoots that Stretch Far Out, 2013–14 (video still) single-channel video, colour, sound Courtesy the artist




At Artspace in Wooolloomooloo – not only is the Ugo Rondinone work – Primitives but the video work Moderate Manipulations from Finish artist Henna-Riikka Halonen.  This work is part of a ‘future trilogy’ where the artist has re-imagined a radical future – a naturalistic setting.


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Henna-Riikka Halonen Moderate Manipulations, 2012 (video still) HD video, 6 mins Courtesy the artist Photograph: Minttu Mäntynen


We’ve given just a taste of the experiences at the 19th Biennale of Sydney : You Imagine What your Desire  - it’s on at Cockatoo Island, MCA Australia, Art Gallery of NSW, Carriageworks and Artspace until 9th June.  Go now and immerse yourself in the world of contemporary art in five very different locations.






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