“Imagination is the
beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine
and at last you create what you will.” — George Bernard Shaw
An Icelandic waterfall, a
village of Danish houses complete with human faces, an art gallery reimagined
as a quasi, dreamlike forest—these are just a few of the immersive exhibitions
curator Juliana Engberg has brought together for the 19th Biennale of Sydney,
which this week begins its three-month run in Australia’s southeast coast.
Borrowing its title from Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, “You Imagine What You Desire” follows the theme of artistic
imagination and desire through an exhibition dispersed across Sydney and a
variety of distinct venues; highlights include: the Museum of Contemporary Art
Australia (MCA), the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), and what Engberg
calls spirited and “feral” locations including Cockatoo Island, a former prison
and shipyard, and Carriageworks, a former railyard.
On Cockatoo Island, Engberg
has created a magical and immersive “fun-park,” filled with performative,
interactive, and kinetic works. Look for the trademark anthropomorphic houses
of Danish duo Randi & Katrine
and fellow Dane Eva Koch
’s life-sized, slow motion projection of an
Icelandic waterfall—complete with the sound of roaring water. Skip over to the
MCA and you’ll find British video artist Douglas Gordon
’s dramatic mixed-media installation, Phantom,
where Rufus Wainwright’s piercing eye and two Steinway pianos are set to
the sound of the singer-songwriter’s haunting voice. At AGNSW, Chinese artist Yingmei Duan
will live for no less than 12 weeks within the
forest she built inside the gallery, handing out written wishes to passersby.
And along city streets, Lithuanian artist Eglë Budvytytë
has choreographed a group
of men who, running through Sydney’s business district, will pantomime a gamut
of emotions, from shame to seduction.
“For me artists are active
philosophers who seek to engage the audience and viewer in an exploration of
our world through metaphor, narrative and poetry,” Engberg said. “They do this
so that we might find inspiration in the sensations and intensities produced by
art, and so that we might, temporarily, step aside from our commonplace
experiences and feel something uncanny and unusual.” This week, explore the
Biennale of Sydney on Artsy and see for yourself—and if you’re in Sydney, spend
time with Engberg’s magical and immersive environments that have temporarily,
and delightfully, taken over the city.