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Biennale of Sydney: highlights and tips (including food)

artists, spaces

22 March 2016

I was fortunate to visit the 20th Biennale of Sydney in its opening week. "The Future is Already Here – It's Just Not Evenly Distributed" opened on 18 March and can be seen until 5 June.

I was in great company, with a talented artist and friend, and we ran around to all the venues before the crowds rolled in. There are 8 different locations or "embassies" to be visited:

  1. Cockatoo Island
  2. MCA Australia
  3. Art Gallery of NSW
  4. Artspace
  5. Carriageworks
  6. Mortuary Station
  7. In-Between spaces
  8. Mobile Book Store

Here are my rules to navigate a biennale:

  • Research is important.
  • Try not too do too much in one day.
  • Be realistic about how much you can and want to see.
  • Make sure that the person who holds the map is in control (in our case we took it in turns).
  • Include, of course, the all important debrief at the end of the day over a glass of wine or two (check my favourite stops in Sydney)!

Highlights – The highlights, in my opinion, were mainly located at Cockatoo Island – it was fun to wander and explore the desolated industrial space. To get there, take the Harbour City Ferries that operate regular services from Circular Quay.

Abstraction of Confusion (2016), by Taro Shinoda; clay, pigment, ochre, tatami mats, dimensions variable, in exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW

I loved the work by William Forsythe, who was born in New York and now lives in Germany. William Forsythe is considered one of the world's foremost choreographers. Nowhere and everywhere at the same time (2015) allows the participant to glide between the moving pendulums. You become the dancer, the choreographer and the art. This work is beautiful, silent and elegant. It is also fun!

For those who did not make it to the Japanese Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015, a new artwork by outstanding artist Chiharu Shiota is on exhibit at Cockatoo Island. Chiharu Shiota creates intimate and intricate webs comprised of metres of black thread. Another beautiful work by another Japanese artist, Taro Shinoda, is at the Art Gallery of NSW. Abstraction of Confusion (2016; pictured) is an incredible installation that fills an entire room creates a meditative silence as if you were in nature. Sitting on the tatami mats allow you to disappear into the hand-built cracked clay walls and sunken floors.

Ghostboy Cantina

Also on the menu – As you all know, food, coffee and wine stops are very important to me. A friend whom I met up with suggested two new places in Sydney... they were both great, even hard to find!

Here is my list for Sydney:

  • Reuben Hills, Surry Hills (coffee, breakfast, fabulous banana bread with caramel salted butter – ouch! Be careful not to fall in love)
  • RELISH FOOD CO, Surry Hills (lunch, salads, coffee, a perfect pit stop after walking all day)
  • Ghostboy Cantina (pictured), Dixon House, Haymarket (tacos, fun food hall, cheap wine, great find, brings me back to Hong Kong days)
  • Baxter Inn (hidden bar, find the lane, find the red rope, walk down the dark stairs to the very American whiskey bar; loose a few hours underground)
  • Sagra Restaurant (perfect Italian, to take the perfect person, in a small house in Darlinghurst).