Wow, wow and wow! This year’s Sydney Biennale 2012 lived up to and exceeded my excited anticipations. On the whole the works were astonishing, enthralling and made me think I had visited an art-lover’s Luna Park. Particularly the roller coaster ride of Cockatoo Island when combined with the trip by ferry (and all for free mind you!) and the adventure and discovery of sites within it’s precinct and the artworks within and without, it combined to make a day of sheer child-clapping joy. In fact the crowd on the Monday at the Island comprising of mostly families with young kids in tow gave it a Sunday-at-the-park feel which goes along with the theme for the year “all our relations”.
And it does take a whole day and a bit just to see every work on the island let alone the MCA, AGNSW and Pier 2/3 (not to mention the Carriageworks which I didn’t get to see). There are too many highlights to list but obviously Cockatoo Island is a must-see (on the whole if you can) with works such as Peter Robinsons’s Snow Ball Blind Time, Philip Beesley’s Hylozoic Series and Bahar Behbahani and Almagul Menlibayeva’s amusing little video installation Ride the Caspian, and, and, and….!…And of the other venues, works such as Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano’s video installation Neon, of dancing twins with black streamers in a dramatic landscape, Nyapanyapa Yunupingu’s intriguing Light Painting and Pinaree Sanpitak’s sensor/sound installation Anything Can Break at the MCA and two video works at the AGNSW: Phil Hasting’s dramatic house in a storm Steadfast and Farideh Lashai’s quirky mixed media/video El Amal are just a few of the ones I would mention amongst many others that were the highlights of this increasingly monumental art-feast.
The only surprise was that I usually look forward to seeing what’s on at the Pier 2/3 from the earliest days of visiting the Biennale (remember Hermann Nitsch’s Painting Action 1987 pigs blood installation of 1988 and how mind-blowing it was? It still resonates in my mind) and this was a bit of a disappointment for me – there didn’t seem to be that symbiotic relationship between the works and the space, that punch-you-in-the-guts feeling I was expecting. But perhaps I would recommend to visit the Pier before Cockatoo Island as for me it was a bit “ho-hum…oh, there’s only three works here and not really all that exciting in their use of the space” after the enormity and variety of works at the Island. The problem is the ferry leaves Circular Quay to go directly to Cockatoo Island and drops into the Pier on it’s return trip – probably they should have arranged it the opposite if they could. But really, it is only a small gripe and the overwhelming experience of the event overrides any slight disappointments anyone could feel – a fun day out for all the family (even “all the relations” pun intended!).