Seeing is believing

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You don’t have to travel very far these days before someone starts talking about the negative effects of TV, computer games, and the generally diminishing effects of technology on the imagination. “Where will all the future writers, painters, and dreamers come from if no one is staring out of the window on the train letting their minds run wild because they have their noses buried in their iPhones?!” we all cry. Well, as those of us who have our heads stuck firmly in the clarity of the art world already know, there is nothing to fear, because art is as imaginative as ever, and that is exactly what The 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, is setting out to prove.

Celebrating the power of the imagination and placing it firmly in front of our eyes, this year’s exhibition is a cornucopia of installations and multi media projects in the largest annual contemporary visual arts event in Australia. Hosted in conjunction with The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) the scope of materials and subject matter is as sweeping as you might expect from such a broadly titled display. As the event’s Artistic Director, Juliana Engberg, points out, it is an “energy filled biennale that presents a grand multiplicity of things … [it] demonstrates the ways in which artists are active philosophers who seek to engage the audience and viewer in an exploration of our world through metaphor, narrative, and poetry.”

It’s also a decidedly positive and engaging exhibition which demonstrates possibility, aspiration, and the diversity of what constitutes both art and imagination, which Engberg emphasises as she continues: “Artists bring awareness to our world in transformation. They seek the possibilities of better worlds.”

The exhibition covers two floors and sits alongside a 12-week education and public program at the MCA. Artists come from all over the world, and pieces have a sense of fantasy, particularly in works such as Danish artist, Eva Koch’s I am The River (2012) an all-encompassing projection of Gljufrabui, the Icelandic waterfall, which is accompanied by a roaring soundtrack. This sits in stark contrast to other works such as that of acclaimed artist, Douglas Gordon, whose large-scale installation and video work Phantom (2007) is seen for the first time in Australia, or New York based artist Ugo Rondinone’s Primitive (2011–12), which sees him scattering the floor of the exhibition space with 59 birds cast in bronze, all of different shapes, textures and personalities, to draw the viewer’s attention back to the world outside.

“Energy” seems to be the ideal and most succinct way to sum up this diverse and exciting exhibition. A feast of textures, ideas, and sensations, it’s true to its moniker and ultimately shows that whatever mediums we are all working in, there is no shortage of imagination!

by Bonnie Friend

The 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire is on at The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia until June 9, 2014. Please visit its website for more details