Biennale of Sydney 2020: NIRIN Program Highlights

NIRIN celebrates a diverse range of creative voices with a line-up of more than 100 artists.

Words: Donnalyn Xu

The 22nd Biennale of Sydney, NIRIN, comes at a crucial time for the contemporary art world.

Under the direction of Indigenous Australian artist Brook Andrew, it is an artist-led, First Nations-led expansive exhibition.

The word NIRIN itself means edge in the language of Andrew’s mother’s Nation, the Wiradjuri people of western New South Wales. Through the lens of borders and margins, NIRIN celebrates diverse artists from the peripheries brought to the centre.

With more than 100 artists and collectives from around the globe exhibited across six sites in Sydney, here are just some of the highlights not to be missed.

At the Art Gallery of New South Wales…

Before his passing in March 2019, the late Pitjantjatjara artist ​Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams​ envisioned a large-scale political protest piece for the Biennale of Sydney. In collaboration with the young men of his community, his artwork demonstrates the continuing strength and persistence of Tjukurpa (the foundation of Anangu life and society).

Gamilaroi/Gomeroi Murri Yinah artist ​Barbara McGrady exhibits ​Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li ​(​Our Ancestors Are Always Watching)​, a kaleidoscope of contemporary Aboriginal history made of archival photographs from her life. A selection of her photographs will be presented at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and at Campbelltown Arts Centre as a major installation.

At Artspace…

The eight-artist collective Tennant Creek Brio shows a series of paintings on discarded western objects, inspired by the process of the healing and the suburban experience of their hometown.

At Campbelltown Arts Centre…

Multi-disciplinary artist and member of the Siksika (Blackfoot) Nation, Adrian Stimson exhibits video and photography that challenges the colonial project through his many performance personas.

At Cockatoo Island…

Tony Albert presents a unique art exhibition in the form of a greenhouse, with the intention of creating a place for gathering, sharing, and healing. Visitors are invited to write memories and messages on pieces of paper that are imbedded within the seeds of native plants. His stained glass work will also be exhibited at the National Art School.

Aotearoa/New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana’s immersive art installation and film, Nomads of the Sea, will explore the cultural history of Māori and South Pacific Islander peoples.

At Museum of Contemporary Art…

Works by artists from the Iltja Ntjarra (Many Hands) Centre will be exhibited at both the Museum of Contemporary Art and the National Art School. Their works explore the issues surrounding housing and homelessness in their communities.

At National Art School..

Transdisciplinary Australian artist Andrew Rewald and Canadian artist Randy Lee Cutler present their first collaboration, along with their own individual works. Their joint installation, Mineral Garden, explores ideas of speculation and alternate universes. Through a combination of posters, collage, minerals and plants, and archival objects, the artists  will be exhibited in The National Art School’s chapel building.

The exhibition is free and open to the public from 14 March 2020 – 8 June 2020.

Image: Hannah Catherine Jones, Owed Bussa 2.0, (video still), 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

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