I've been volunteering at the Biennale of Sydney, which is a city-wide arts exhibition held every two years. So far, my volunteering time has been spent on Cockatoo Island, located in Sydney harbor.
Cockatoo Island is a historic island, accessible only by boat. Originally the island held a prison, then a school for misbehaved children, then a place of manufacturing for ships. The island has two parts: a lower part and an upper part and the exhibition is located in both.
The curator of the exhibition, Stephanie Rosenthal, focused this year's biennale around this line from a science fiction book: 'The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed.' Based on this, several 'Embassies of Thought' were created at the different locations to represent different ways to interpret this line.
One of the best parts about living in Sydney is that I get to commute by ferry. Where Amy and I live, this is the fastest way to get to the CBD (Central Business District). The stop is just down the block and a 12 minute ride to the Sydney Opera House where the main ferry terminal is located.
To get to Cockatoo Island, I transfer to another ferry. And since the boats all have outdoor seating, on nice days I get to sit outside. So different from my commute back in New York which was underground!
The Xu Zhen (MadeIn Company) piece in the photo at the beginning of the post is produced by a team in China led by Xu Zhen. It replicates various Western sculptures from the Parthenon and several Eastern sculptures from temples. The two are fused at the head, with East meeting West quite literally.
Cockatoo Island is the 'Embassy of the Real' and features artists from around the world who have interpreted the overall idea of the Biennale in this manner. The artist Bharti Kher (upper right photo) has cast six women in plaster from New Delhi, India where she lives and works. The women are all sex workers and the sculptures are housed in the building in the photo on the top left (I'm told this building used to be the mess hall for the prison). The sculptures are incredibly lifelike which is amazing considering the artist cast each in a single day.
At each volunteering session I get placed with a piece of art, then rotated to others throughout the day. During my sessions thus far, I have spent the most amount of time with the Bharti Kher sculptures. I'm part of the Envoy Team, which means my role is to engage the audience in dialogue about the art as well as monitor the art to keep it safe.
The Korakrit video is quite engaging and the seating and runway are part of the artist's work. Known for painting on denim (which symbolizes the West), this Thai artist created a piece which at one point features a hip-hop video. The runway was painted by the performer Boy Kong, and Amy and I were lucky enough to catch this performance on opening night.
It's been a great experience to volunteer and I'm looking forward to my upcoming shifts. The Biennale of Sydney runs until June (and it's free), so definitely check it out if you're in town!