21st Biennale of Sydney, Australia
SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium & Engagement
Curated by Mami Kataoka
Cockatoo Island, Sydney, Australia
March 16 - June 11, 2018
Anya Gallaccio is well known for her ephemeral, site-specific installations; temporary works that often comprise materials informed by local industries and economies such as flowers, dirt, chocolate and ice. Providing vivid, sensorial experiences of the natural processes of transformation and decay, Gallaccio allows materials to dictate the ultimate form of an artwork, despite aesthetic or conceptual implications. On the unpredictability and autonomy of materials, Gallaccio has said: "While I can anticipate what a material may do -- and how it could or should respond -- I have no expectations about how it actually will perform. Often form becomes disorder; the material asserting control." From this arises questions of authorship and material agency, asserting the capacity for materials to surpass the hand of the artist.
In works such as preserve 'beauty' (1991-2003), an installation composed of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of red gerberas arranged on panels and pressed behind glass, Gallaccio explores the idea of relinquishing control in relation to natural phenomena. Beautiful Minds (2015-18), applies a similar logic, with technology rather than nature serving as the self-determining force. Situated in the Industrial Precinct at Cockatoo Island, the installation involves a giant 3D printer suspended from the pre-existing gantry remaining from the Island's ship-building past. The printer is loaded with clay that is discharged to print a scale-model of an existing mountainscape -- Devil's Tower, also known as Bear Lodge Butte, in Wyoming. Named the first United States National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt, there is much uncertainty surrounding the formation of the geological site, with speculation suggesting that the Tower was a volcanic plug or the neck of an extinct volcano.
The eventual clay form is dictated by the programmed printer; as an insentient machine, it is unconcerned with the outcome. In this way, Gallaccio removes the influence of subjective judgement -- the only variables at play result from the materiality of the clay and conditions of the printing environment. Building up the sedimentary 'rock' layer by layer, the machine accelerates a geological process that usually takes millions of years. Seeing the mechanized process as a form of drawing rather than sculpture-making, Gallaccio rethinks our understanding of natural processes in light of technological advancements.
The 21st Biennale of Sydney examines the world today by borrowing the word 'superposition,' the quantum mechanical term that refers to an overlapping situation. Microscopic substances like electrons are said to be dualistic in nature: they paradoxically exist in the form of waves and granular particles simultaneously. The state of 'superposition' lies across all conceptual levels: from different climates and cultures to views of nature and the cosmic orders, conceptions of Mother Earth and interpretations of land ownership, readings of human history and conditions, the history of modern and contemporary art and the meaning of abstractions. The 21st Biennale of Sydney offers a panoramic view of how they all come together in a state of 'equilibrium,' while delving into the workings of individual phenomena, considering the equivalence of these opposing notions through the lens of 'engagement.'According to the theory of Wu Xing in ancient Chinese natural philosophy, everything in this world is made up five main elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Each of these elements gives rise to the next element, either through a process of symbiosis, where one element encourages the formation of the others, or a situation of mutual conflict and antagonism, in which each element resists and suppresses the others. These reciprocal relationships are regulating the cardinal directions, the seasons, colors, our bodily organs and functions, and emotions. In reality, a diversity of elements come together in a state of repeated collision, collapse, and rebirth at each level, and today we seem to be witnessing an accelerated process of antagonistic conflict between different standards of value, faiths and beliefs, and political systems.The participating artists in the 21st Biennale of Sydney were not chosen to represent or symbolize a particular theme. By placing these artworks, oriented towards diverse concerns and issues which resonate with overall perspectives of the Biennale on multiple levels, across seven venues in the city of Sydney, it is my hope that the Biennale as a whole will serve as a microcosm of the history of Earth, the human race, and a condensed version of the history of Sydney. From the repeatedly overlapping value systems contained within, the Biennale will encourage us to consider how all things in this world interact with complementarity in a state of equilibrium and engagement. Taking Sydney in 2018 as a starting point, the 21st Biennale of Sydney SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium & Engagement promises to be a creative and critical experience for observing the world.-- Mami Kataoka