Shadow hand games

If we’d forgotten how good Sydney could be, a ferry trip to Cockatoo Island for the 18th Biennale of Sydney was a quick reminder.

Cockatoo Island has become a fabulous asset to the Sydney art scene. It makes you feel excited just to be there. It was the perfect venue for last year’s Outpost Festival of street art and street culture.

The Biennale also has more conventional homes in the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art, but for a bit of rough and tumble it’s hard to beat the former industrial site on the island.

Huge spaces, natural light and an evocative setting.

Biennale provides free ferries from Circular Quay, though we took the regular harbour ferry from Balmain, hopping across to Greenwich and Woolwich along the way. On a sparkling day, the twenty-minute ride was too short, even for the four year old grandson.

Major cutting edge art exhibitions are not normally designed with four year olds in mind. The beauty of Cockatoo Island is that there is space for large scale works which make use of the environment and the setting. When we emerged from the dark tunnel housing Daan Roosegaarde’s Dune, the grandson was very taken by the cold mist squirting from unseen vents.

Playing in Fujiko Hakaya’s cloud was fun for young and old.

Into the mist…

…and out again.

We really liked New Zealander Peter Robinson’s use of polystyrene chains, enveloping the rusting machinery of Cockatoo Island’s old shipyards.

Peter Robinson – heavy machinery and polystyrene.

Canadian Philip Beesley’s work looks delicate, but we were assured it was supposed to be interactive. The LED lights are activated by viewers rubbing wires or moving through the sensors – perfect toys for grandchildren.

Canadian Philip Beesley’s elegant kinetic work.

Philip Beesley’s Hylozoic Series

Cal Lane’s elaborately carved shipping container creates ‘Domesticated Turf’.

The Biennale, Australia’s largest visual arts event, runs until September 16th. Entry is free. If you can’t get there this time, arrange to be in Sydney when it returns in two years’ time.

Cal Lane – Domesticated Turf.


Filed under Art, Travel-Australia

8 responses to “SYDNEY BIENNALE ON COCKATOO ISLAND – art you can play with

  1. Will do! It looks marvellous, and even more so that you were able to contain a four year old … 🙂

  2. Caroline

    We left Cockatoo Is to meet the aforementioned grandson! Ellie loved the mist too.

    • Yes, that mist…one of those brilliant gimmicks that seems so simple when someone’s thought of it. Whoever invented the first-ever water-squirting fountain all those years ago must have been hailed as a genius.

      But the mist was very popular, and not only with kids.

  3. Caroline

    It was actually pretty chilly the day we were there, at least where the mist was. Didn’t deter the kidlets, but the adults were steering a bit clear.

  4. Fantastic pieces and evocative photos. Made me want to visit and take some with my own family but I can’t emulate the ones with the child – they are superb..

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