Sydney Biennale seeks to explain humanitarian crises facing the world

SYDNEY, Subel Bhandari (dpa)- Australia's largest art exhibition begins its three-month showing on March 16. Tens of thousands are expected to visit the Biennale of Sydney, with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei the most significant attraction.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's massive inflatable boat, housed on isolated Cockatoo Island in Sydney harbour, is one of the top attractions at the Biennale of Sydney.

The 60-metre long lifeboat featuring 300 refugee figures, called "Law of the Journey," is displayed in a shipyard warehouse of the former penal colony for Australia's first immigrant convicts which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Chinese artist's work is one of the hundreds of exhibits at the three-month-long Biennale, which will feature artworks by 70 artists and collectives from 35 countries.
It starts Friday across seven venues, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Sydney Opera House.
It marks the 45th anniversary of the Biennale.
"The theme this year is Superposition: Equilibrium & Engagement," Biennale curator and artistic director Mami Kataoka told dpa from Tokyo.
"It is based on the idea of co-existence of the five elements of the universe - water, fire, wood, metal and earth - according to the Chinese philosophy of Wuxing, which is ever-changing but also same."
"I wanted the title to become a metaphor of the world today."
"The artists have been chosen to offer a panoramic view of how opposing interpretations can come together... and collectively reflect the movements, migration of people and cultures away from conflict in the 20th century across the world," she added.
In 2016, more than 650,000 people attended the Biennale of Sydney, one of the largest in the world.
It is Australia’s oldest and most well-known contemporary art event, recognised for commissioning and showcasing innovative and thought-provoking Australian and international art.
One of the recurring themes in this year's Biennale is migration, which many artists reflects from personal experiences. Ai's latest works are inspired by global refugee crises and harsh immigration policies.
"I'm still in this exiled state from my country, from China," said Ai, who now lives in Berlin.
"Law of the Journey," which has been launched to coincide with the Australia debut of Ai's powerful refugee film "Human Flow," was first shown at the National Museum in Prague, where it was on display from March 2017 until January.
"This piece really is made for here... with the history of early immigrants and also still current struggles with Australia's record towards refugees, you know, political struggles," Ai said.
His other artwork is a two-tonne crystal ball being shown at the Artspace Gallery in Woolloomooloo.
It is a metaphor which considers gazing into the complex future of our world amid its ongoing humanitarian crisis, Kataoka said.
Another artwork exploring migration and movement is Japanese artist Yukinori Yanagi's "Icarus Container," a labyrinthine tunnel made from shipping containers that use mirrors to reflect sunlight, representing capitalism and global distribution networks.
Vietnamese artist Tiffany Chung's embroidered textile map shows the delineation of the country's refugee history post-1975 and includes people who fled to settle in disparate locations from Congo to Saudi Arabia.
"We went everywhere," Chung told dpa. "It shows the Vietnamese exodus."
"It also shows we went to the global south as well; not everyone got to go to the West. We ended up going wherever we could."
"A lot of times we ended up being in those countries for more than 10 years. It means you are permanently in transit. You are never home."
She wanted to dismantle the established narrative and re-map the movement, she said.
"And this could also be Syria's story today," she said.
"This project actually started with me looking into the conflict in Syria. The striking resemblance gave me the courage to revisit my own history.
"Also, I don't think people really understand the extent of the trauma on those who have had to leave their homes."
Interdisciplinary artist Brook Andrew, 47, an Indigenous Australian now a resident at Berlin's Kuenstlerhaus Bethanien, collaborated with four artists on an exhibit of five sculptures which represent the elements of the universe.
"The world is a richer place when you collaborate," he told dpa.
The exhibit "scrutinizes the dominance of Western colonial narratives," he said. "I am always looking for ultimate narrative. I have multiple identities. I am a child of a colony. It's not fixed."

Wednesday, March 21st 2018
Subel Bhandari

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