It’s a Biennale Year for Sydney

February 28, 2008 at 1:42 am (Uncategorized)

Yes, art lovers, it’s that time again: the 2008 Biennale of Sydney is coming our way. Let the countdown to June 18 begin. You might think I am jumping the gun a little, given I’m mentioning this four months ahead of schedule, but it’s worth talking about now because the 2008 Biennale of Sydney’s online venue – revolutionsonline – is already up and running for your viewing pleasure.

revolutionsonline is a great little warm up to the main event (the 2008 Biennale of Sydney runs 18 June to 7 September and it’s *FREE* so you’ve got no excuse to pretend it isn’t happening all over town), offering an ever-shifting landscape of works of film, audio, image, interactivity, live-stream performance and text. This is why I love the web. I don’t understand how it works. I don’t even know the first thing about how they get all that shit uploaded, and I don’t care to know because I use technology on a strictly need-to-know basis, but I love the amount of cool stuff you can just bump into online.

What is this space we’re in?

I’m glad it makes sense to people, that codes and programs and everything else that goes into creating the virtual universe of the internet make up a language that many people today speak fluently. I have a couple of friends who build and design websites for a living – their knowledge impresses me, but, if I’m honest, frightens me a little bit too. I’m a tech moron, and their tech brilliance is disconcerting to say the least. But that doesn’t mean I fail to appreciate how impressive the internet is. I love that I can view contemporary art exhibitions online. I love that I can book tickets to see the Cate Blanchett-directed, Sydney Theatre Company production of Joan Didion’s adapted play The Year of Magical Thinking just by clicking a couple of icons on my computer. I love that I can maintain my little blog with a minimum of fuss and that people all over the world can read it.

And I love the dissemination of information. See, I just happened across something this morning that reminded me it was a Biennale year for Sydney, so that prompted a Google search, which led me straight to their main website. From there, I went to the ‘News’ section and then into the online venue. So today, before lunch, I’ve already had a bit of a wander through a gallery… Not a conventional gallery, but what is conventional anymore? Surely we are still occupying some kind of space here in the online world, however it confounds and challenges our expectations and traditional definitions. And now I’ve read Paul Chan’s (articulate, dry, thoughtful) artist statement about his street production of Waiting for Godot in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans… something I didn’t know even happened until the unique serendipity of the web worked its magic once more. It’s just cool. I rate it.

And despite the fact that it cops a constant whalloping, I like contemporary art, too. Sure, some of it is shit, undeniably; I’ve seen contemporary art that’s less sophisticated and interesting than the potato prints we were all busy finessing as 5 year olds. But don’t let the banal or the self-congratulatory or the smug or the plain stupid put you off contemporary art as a whole. It’s such a rich, complex area of the arts that I think it’s a real shame a few boring poseurs have ruined it for so much of its potential audience. But it works both ways. You have to be an engaged participant, you have to get out there and have a look and support contemporary art, because that’s the only way they will be able to claim more room in the world for more artists with more ideas and more passions and more ways of seeing. Otherwise the opportunities shrink, and when that happens, the variety and sometimes the standard contracts. Just look at the health of Australian publishing.

Unpublished young(ish) fiction writers (um, exhibit A right here) have a hell of a time getting their work out, but the average Australian reader has not got any idea how many of us there really are. Young unknown contemporary artists face exactly the same struggle. In some ways theirs is worse, because the “all contemporary art is shit” tag pursues them like a landlord chasing down his overdue rent. It can’t be easy. At least when I tell people what I do for a living they don’t say “Yeah, but that’s just a load of meaningless crap.” Mmm, thanks for the input. Assuming they’re all as personally involved and soul-exposed in their work as I am in mine, I can only say that’s got to hurt.

Anyway, the 2008 Biennale is the perfect time to turf out your preconceptions and prejudices and all the other pejorative ‘p’ words and get out and about in Sydney to make the most of having an international contemporary art event right at your door. It happens but once every two years, so enjoy.

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