The 22nd Biennale Of Sydney is almost upon us and as always it throws up a multitude of interesting and provocative art experiences. Lots of free events and exhibitions and there’s no doubt it delivers a real buzz to the city. However, it’s always a select group of artists who are chosen to participate and that begs the question – what about those who didn’t get a run at Carriageworks or Cockatoo Island?
I spoke to a group of slightly disgruntled artists this week who fell into that category, and all expressed an enthusiasm for a kind of ‘fringe’ Biennale that would give them the opportunity to exhibit. Whilst the MCA and Art Gallery Of NSW would be out of the question, Sydney abounds with numerous thought provoking spaces which could easily accommodate.
Whilst official approval would be welcome, a more ‘guerilla’ approach would be in keeping with the concept of an alternative Biennale. The crumbling ruins of the old Sydney Football Stadium would be the ideal location for a doomsday foam party and a mass choir of a hundred or more chanting ‘art is dead’. Personally I would love to see a nightly recreation of the famous Odessa Steps sequence from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin at the iconic entrance to the Sydney Town Hall. Crash test dummies and department store mannequins could easily be substituted for real people, cascading magically towards the George Street footpath. The real meaning of it all I’m yet to determine.
Elsewhere in the city the Devonshire Street Tunnel, with its constant flow of pedestrians, is the perfect environment for a daily art happening. A special lane could be established where anybody walking from the railway to Broadway would be encouraged to walk backwards to protest against the degradation of the city – like the absurd moving of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta. Those a little unsteady on their feet would be offered the opportunity of riding in a shopping trolley with hundreds of volunteers on hand to offer that assistance.
Jeff Koon’s floral puppy, the big yellow ducky – Sydneysiders have always responded well to the display of oversized animals and the infamous inflatable Trump Baby would be a wonderful addition to the fringe fest. Flown daily in the Domain, office workers could rent super soakers and while away their lunch hours giving the big baby a symbolic bath.
Another innovation might be the backyard Biennale BBQ where you could invite your friends and possibly total strangers over for a sausage sizzle and installation. The latter would be up to your imagination although you could even invite Bondi’s notorious Bobolas sisters over to curate a massive pile of junk and stinking garbage on your patio – a visual metaphor for today’s disgraceful consumer waste. However, don’t expect them to clean it up when the party’s over.
Finally, a number of Sydney pigeon fanciers, all with a strong artistic bent, have suggested recreating the famous Coca-Cola sign from St Mark’s Square in Venice, the spiritual home of the Biennale. The strategic placement of bird seed there in the late 1960s saw thousands of pigeons gather to spell out the commercial message. Here in Sydney, with an equally healthy pigeon population, any large open space could be commandeered to spell out a whole series of catch words and phrases from the obvious ‘ETERNITY’ to the more politically persuasive ‘CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL’. Hopefully a residue of pigeon poo would create an indelible copy of the original messages, that would remain for weeks and provide a wonderful photo opp – not to mention a lasting legacy of the first ever fringe Biennale!