Last week I suggested that we are entering a new paradigm when it comes to the way the arts are regarded and their relevance in a world where uncertainty and human tragedy dominate the lives of so many. There’s a well promoted optimism, that give or take a year or two, everything will be back to normal and once again audiences will flock to our festivals, concert halls, music clubs and galleries.
Sydney is gearing up for another Biennale in 2022 under the title of Rivus, with an ecological theme that might be interpreted as an element of post pandemic cleansing and rebirth. That’s all great, but I would like to think that the new normal might also have room for a kind of spontaneous fringe style Biennale. A Biennale not funded by wealthy philanthropists and Government grants, nor one officially curated by an internationally celebrated artist.
Call it the guerrilla Biennale if you like, and it’s up to you the average citizen to seize the initiative. There’s almost zero budget involved but it’s amazing how creative you can get, when your only asset is your imagination. Here are just a few suggestions:
ORGANISE A MEAT WEARING BACKYARD BARBIE: Conceptual artists like Hermann Nitsch and Carolee Schneemann have used meat in their works as a kind of metaphor, often designed to shock and emphasise the visceral. For your Backyard Biennale Barbie invite all your friends (vegans included) to not only bring their own snags and steaks but to wear it in the most creative way they can. Hygiene could be a problem but hey, it’s all in the name of art!
THROW A BRICK IN AN OLD WASHING MACHINE: Make a statement on consumerism and the fragility of modern technology by chucking a brick in an old washing machine and turning on the spin cycle. There’s a good 10 minutes of fun for you, your friends and any youngsters as the old whirlpool shakes itself violently to pieces. Deconstruction at its finest!
CANDID CURRENCY: In the wee small hours, when nobody is around, super glue 100 50 cent pieces, scattered around the entrance to Martin Place Station. As the morning commute starts video the hundreds of hapless office workers bending over in vain, to retrieve the discarded coins. It’s a statement on modern day greed but also a great gag to post on YouTube.
TRAMPING ON COCKATOO ISLAND: Cockatoo Island is a regular venue for the Biennale and also offers up market ‘glamping’ for those wanting to stay overnight. Arrive with your own el cheapo tent and sleeping bag and set up camp for the night as a protest to Sydney’s lack of affordable housing. When the security attempt to evict you remind them that the island is cursed and any action on their part will result in 20 years of bad luck. Invite a small sympathetic audience to witness the event.
ANOTHER ‘UNMADE’ BED: Do a deal with one those Sleep City like bedding retailers and set up a recreation of British artist Tracy Emin’s controversial ‘unmade bed’, grotty and disheveled and complete with quote “used condoms, blood-stained panties, empty booze bottles, and other “ew” inducing artifacts.” Put a price tag of $4,351,969 on it (less 10%), the exact price that the original sold for at a Christie’s auction in 2014 and then ring the Daily Telegraph to complain.
COMMUNITY SINGING IN REVERSE: Recruit a flash mob to walk backwards across the Harbour Bridge (in either direction), whilst singing the Goon’s I’m Walking Backwards For Christmas. When curious bystanders question your motives explain that the exercise is a metaphor for human retrogression, that society is rooted, that we have totally stuffed the environment, that we are all going backwards and in other a thousand years we will all be back living in caves.