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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SYDNEY BIENNALE AIMS TO STITCH US ALL TOGETHER



Sydney Biennale aims to stitch us all together
The international exhibition presents art as a cathartic experience

By Cristina Ruiz. Web only
Published online: 29 June 2012

Sewing, basket-weaving, music-making, story-telling and other communal activities are at the heart of the 18th Biennale of Sydney, which opened 27 June and runs until 16 September. The exhibition, spread over five venues in the city, is entitled “All Our Relations” and presents a vision of art as a cathartic experience capable of healing wounds and building bridges.

“Humanity is in need of a renewed attention to how we relate to each other and to the world we inhabit,” write curators Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster in one of the texts accompanying the exhibition. “We tend to forget how small acts in our daily life can influence the larger whole and thus destroy or recreate a greater harmony between the spheres.”

One of these “small acts” is currently being performed by the Taiwan-born, New York-based artist Lee Mingwei who has taken up residence at the newly-enlarged Museum of Contemporary Art for The Mending Project. He sits at a table with 800 spools of brightly-coloured thread attached to the walls behind him. Members of the public are invited to present a ripped item of clothing to the artist and sit and chat to him while he fixes it. “I taught myself how to sew,” Mingwei says. “I just like to do things with my hands.” The artist, who chooses colours which contrast to the garments he is working on, says he is performing “very visible mending to celebrate the fact that these pieces of clothing have been greatly loved”.

Over on Cockatoo Island, a sprawling industrial site with nearly 150 buildings which has been both a prison and a ship-building yard in the course of its history, Nadia Myre from Canada is encouraging members of the public to pick up spools of thread themselves and apply it to small linen tablets so they can “sew their wounds” as part of The Scar Project creating images or text which relate to past traumas. Elsewhere on the site, Erin Manning, also from Canada, is inviting visitors to participate in Stitching Time—A Collective Fashioning a massive communal sew-in and tea-drinking event. This is a biennale of quiet domestic acts, celebrated because of their capacity to bring us together.

The hand of the maker is present everywhere in an exhibition that explores the female domain. Around half of the 100 artists from 40 countries included here are men but many of them are skilled in arts which are traditionally performed by women, such as the South African Nicholas Hlobo who has created an enormous whale-like creature rising up from Sydney Harbour to rest on a boat launch cradle, its long, wispy tail winding down to the water below. The animal, created from rubber and hosepipe, is festooned with ribbons that have been carefully embroidered through its rubbery body.


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