the mind bending ideas behind this year’s tarrawarra biennial

A killer line up of local artists will be represented in the multi-faceted exhibition exploring art, fashion, publishing, sculpture and beyond.

by Briony Wright
23 August 2016, 12:25am

Sarah crowEST

TarraWarra is a special art gallery; nestled in scenic bush land one hour's drive out of Melbourne, it has been home to a consistently strong program of Australian art dating back to the second half of the twentieth century. This August it will host its fifth biennial, which promises to bring together some of the country's most exciting artists, writers, publishers and fashion designers. The line up includes Fayen d'Evie's publishing project 3-Ply, Mathew Linde's Centre For Style, Jake Swinson and Spencer Lai of Monica's Gallery, fashion designer Jessie Kiely and many more. They're joining some of the country's most established artists, painters and sculptors to form a fascinating snapshot of Australia's creative community.

Ruth O'Leary

Curated by the gallery's own Victoria Lynn and the editor of critical art magazine Discipline, Helen Hughes, the show will see this cross section of talent working together in response to the overarching theme of Endless Circulation. From fashion parades and publications to performances and more traditional work, it promises to be one hell of a celebration. We spoke with co-curator Helen Hughes to find out more. 

i-D: With your publication Discipline so integral to this year's biennial, how will it differ from past events?
Helen Hughes: In a sense this one's got a more discursive platform. We'll be running our lecture series alongside the biennial, with guest speakers who'll respond to the themes of circulation and continuity. Also younger artists are probably better represented in this show than in previous years, mainly because they're who I tend to work with.

Is everyone creating new work for the show?
Most of the work will be new. There will be a couple of older works but nothing made before 2014.

Misty Pollen

A lot of the artists involved are familiar from smaller shows at artist run spaces, group shows or performances. How will this influence the biennial?
The biennial at Tarrawarra is a large-scale, official exhibition at a large-scale, official museum, so more than ever before we are working to a very solid plan in a really professional context. That said, we're trying to inject a lot of that artist-facilitated culture. For instance we've got Chris Hill and Monica's Gallery organising their own sections, completely autonomously, and that's been an exciting thing for us.

The fashion parade scheduled for the opening night sounds exciting, can you tell us a bit more about that.
Well we originally invited 3-Ply's Fayen d'Evie to make a work for the show. She suggested she'd like to work with Matthew from Centre for Style, and then they also invited Monica's Gallery to add to the installation as well. Monica's gallery then invited Jessie Kiely to make a collection so it's just kind of evolved like a relay of invitations. It's very collaborative. Jessie's making a brand new collection which has come together via an interesting process involving randomly generated algorithms. She's also inviting children from the Healesville community to model some of the work.

Wukun Wanambi video still

Sounds amazing. What is your interpretation of the Endless Circulation theme?
Well like most biennial themes, it's deliberately open-ended. The themes are derived from the ways in which magazines circulate through distribution channels, how capitalism circulates globally, and how artists and artworks fly around the world in order to participate in biennials. Also, there's a lot of preoccupation in the contemporary art world at the moment around the conditions of labour. So, we were also thinking about the endlessness of work these days and how sleep might be the final frontier in the way of endless production, endless labour and endless consumption. 

Masato Takasaka

What are you most excited about?
I'm excited to see everything to be honest. I'm excited to see artists that I've only ever seen exhibiting in artist run spaces make work on a bigger scale, and I'm really keen to see Masato Takasaka's installation. Vernon Ah Kee is developing a performance work from Brisbane involving members of the local Aboriginal community wearing these slogan t-shirts he's made and roaming around the gallery and telling stories to visitors. Ah Kee's new work is a perfect example of how stories circulate.   

Vincent Namatjira

Biljana Jancic


Text Briony Wright
Images show existing work by exhibiting artists

centre for style
helen hughes
tarrawarra biennial