One might say that it is a bit late to talk about Sydney Biennale 2016 as it is heading towards the end. Anyway, I would say that this year’s Biennale is about the relationship between time and art. Artworks appear to require viewers to have patience and observe the works, which have changed over a period of time. Otherwise, viewers would see only the part of the works, not the whole.
Charwei Tsai’s incense installation, Spiral Incense Mantra has been burning and disappearing in Mortuary Station. Lee Mingwei’s performative sand drawing, Guernica in Sand at the Carriageworks has been swept and changed its appearance as people walked on the drawing. And Taro Shinoda’s work, Abstraction of Confusion has been peeled off and cracked over the course of the exhibition, showing the trace of time at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
This essence of time in arts also was magnificently created by Korean artist Ahn Kyuchul through the exhibition, Invisible Land of Love at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul in 2015. In one of the works, The Pianist and the Tuner, a pianist plays the same piece of music at the same time every day, and a tuner removes one piano hammer a day. At the end of the performance, what would remain would be a complete silence.
Time is a constant change, and it moves forward. Like Futurism ideas, if we stand still, it means we go backwards. In this Biennale, Justine Wiliams recreated the Russian futurist opera Victory over the Sun, which I missed. The founder of Suprematism, Kazimir Malevich’s artwork Black Square originated from his stage design of this opera. Through Suprematism, he explained the significance of pure feeling in creative arts. I agree with this focus on emotional feelings and senses in artworks without requiring hundreds of words to explain. Black Square has been changed as it is cracked as time pass regardless of Malevich’s intention.
Performing art is a great medium to experiment with this concept of time. In Memory of the Last Sunset is a durational collaborative work, which is initiated with Neha Choksi’s installation and completed with the performance by Alice Cummin. This combination of visual elements and the transient moment of performance also can be found in Korean avant-garde artist Lee Kun-Yong’s works. Lee’s performance is marked and traced with pigments at the same time. His body and mind become the brush of his painting, holding the moment at that time.
Perhaps it is too early to say about the Biennale as it has not finished yet and I need to attend to see one more performance in June. I already talked too much.