Cover image of the review

Aboriginal/Islanders Dance Theatre in FESTAC ’77, Lagos, Nigeria. Dancers: Lillian Crombie, Michael Leslie, Wayne Nicol, Richard Talonga, Roslyn Watson. Photographer unknown. Courtesty aboriginal artists agency. 24th Biennale of Sydney, Ten Thousand Suns, White Bay Power Station. Photo by Nick Croggon.

The 24th Biennale of Sydney: Ten Thousand Suns

1 Jun 2024
White Bay Power Station 9 Mar - 10 Jun 2024

Only four years ago, Sydney’s White Bay Power Station seemed destined for destruction. During a visit to the site in November 2020, NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance noted with distaste that “it’s full of asbestos, it’s a highly contaminated site, it really adds no value.” In question time a few days later, the Treasurer Dominic Perrottet described the Station as a “shocking building” that should be torn down. In an opinion piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald not long after, Perrottet walked back his demand, instead listing ten other sites from Sydney’s industrial past that he would like to see bulldozed.

Perrottet’s polemic was, as he noted, tongue in cheek—a lazy attempt to spark a new culture war using architectural heritage as the fuel. Yet his words also betrayed what was really at stake. Perrottet’s problem with Sydney’s industrial and brutalist architecture was not simply its lack of beauty (which, after all, characterises most new corporate buildings in Sydney’s CBD), but rather that its aesthetics were out of synch with Sydney’s current stage of capitalist development. The Power Station stood as an ugly reminder of the now defunct industrialism on which the city’s affluence was based. No longer an active producer of economic “value” (as Constance noted), the site had become merely architecture.

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