Cover image of the review

Installation view, ‘Ten thousand suns’ 24th Biennale of Sydney 2024, Art Gallery of New South Wales, featuring art by Pacific Sisters (foreground) and Robert Gabris (wall) photo © Art Gallery of New South Wales, Christopher Snee.

The 24th Biennale of Sydney: Ten Thousand Suns

1 Jun 2024
UNSW Galleries, White Bay Power Station, Artspace, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), Chau Chak Wing Museum, Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) 9 Mar - 10 Jun 2024

Although this year’s Biennale of Sydney, Ten Thousand Suns, promised an antidote to all the world’s cataclysms through joy, celebration, and queer coming-together, they were thrown in our faces instead. The perils of war (UNSW Galleries), time-warped apocalyptic premonitions (MCA), unhealing wounds of colonial power, and forced migration (CCWM), and again colonial oppression (Artspace) go on and on. The promises of lively Carnivale were held static in time, unmoving and fixed to mannequins in AGNSW. Is it regalia rallying against all evils, or is it necessary to camouflage to hide from all evils? The new locale, White Bay Power Station, was marginally more optimistic but still steeped in melancholy.

Installation view, 24th Biennale of Sydney, Ten Thousand Suns, UNSW Galleries, featuring DIGGERMODE (2022) by Joel Sherwood Spring, photo by Jacquie Manning.

The Biennale of Sydney’s past few iterations have been a fertile breeding ground for young generations of artists (think Aziz Hazara in NIRIN, 2020). But I can’t tell you who such artists may be in this iteration. I guess there was Wiradjuri artist Joel Sherwood-Spring at UNSW Galleries, whose ACMI commission Diggermode (2023) was minimised from an epic two-channel installation—which I’m sure Okwui Enwezor would have labelled as “biennale scale”—onto tiny screens. Think corner of a collection hang tiny. Or Tiwi Island collective Yangamini’s large presentation (also at UNSW) felt squished and minimised compared to the space given to artists at White Bay. Perhaps this biennale was the reprieve from the spectacle we’ve come to expect.

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