Arts & Entertainment


Naked City

The 20th Biennale of Sydney, now spread throughout venues across the city, has lots to say about the world we live in. Artists from all over the world are represented in a potpourri of radical ideas, in your face challenges and biting social comment.

We are supposed to be stimulated, surprised, engrossed and intellectually provoked as we explore the various artworks and installations – not the most forthcoming reactions in a world now dominated by both an overwhelming cynicism and an onslaught of visual triggers. The truth is that most folks probably perceive the current Biennale as just a bit of modern day eye candy, not all that removed from the spectacular displays of fruit and vegetables at the Royal Easter Show. Ironically, there’s probably more political and philosophical comment to be milked from 50,000 pieces of fruit and a humongous pumpkin than the entire contents of Cockatoo Island’s ‘Embassy Of The Real’.

No knock on the Biennale, but what we would really love to see is art liberated from the cloistered halls of the MCA and the NSW Art Gallery and unleashed on the streets of Sydney. It’s been done before of course, when artists have dumped oversized sculptures and absurd installations anonymously outside prominent galleries, not to mention the explosion of so called street art/graffiti in cities around the world.

What we really need in Sydney however is a coordinated burst of unauthorised al fresco artwork, a kind of fringe Biennale that would engulf the city and enable anybody with an artistic axe to grind to express themselves with a spontaneous artwork or installation. Graffiti has been done to death so we are thinking more of the temporary installation or adornment of an everyday object. Nothing that would destroy or vandalize public property, but something that would enrich our everyday lives and give stressed out commuters a bit of a chuckle.

The City Of Sydney Council would no doubt object, particularly if a giant papier mâché wombat was placed on the steps of the Sydney Town Hall, but eventually we hope they would come to the party. They are forever carting away household rubbish, dumped on the streets so the odd illegal installation is not going to upset them, not to mention the enormous cultural benefits.

Council clean ups could even encourage residents to stack their old analogue TVs and other domestic trash in an artistic display, even illuminated with Christmas lights and pulsing strobe effects. Free parking could be offered during a specific week for those willing to decorate their vehicles in a humorous or innovative way – like something out of Mad Max: Fury Road or Herbie Goes Bananas. The spirit of Christo, the artist who wrapped Little Bay way back in 1968 with a million square feet of fabric, could be revived with spontaneous wrappings of well known Sydney landmarks, like the “poo balls” at Kings Cross, the statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in Macquarie Street and the Archibald Fountain.

It would be the greatest democratisation of art since those painting by numbers kits appeared in the 1950s and anybody could whip up the Mona Lisa in an afternoon or two. The city would be bubbling, bursting and literally engulfed by art – just about everywhere you looked. The official Biennale might at first perceive it as some serious competition, but ultimately they would embrace it as a genuine fringe event, their own anarchic bastard offspring.

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