The 22nd edition of the Biennale of Sydney will take place in 2020.
Brooke Andrew is one of Australia’s pre-eminent contemporary artists and his appointment in June 2018 puts the artist at the centre of the Biennale of Sydney’s next edition in 2020.
An Interdisciplinary Artist at the Helm of the Biennale
Interdisciplinary artist Brook Andrew was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1970 and works with neon, installation, photo-media, mixed-media, performance and video. Andrew challenges cultural and historical perception, using text and image to comment on local and global issues regarding race, consumerism and history.
He creates multi-layered artworks that scrutinise the dominance of Western colonial narratives, deliberately locating Australia at the centre of a global inquisition. Drawing inspiration from archival and vernacular objects, Andrew works with different communities, as well as public and private collections around the world, to highlight alternative histories that are too often neglected, hidden beneath the legacies of colonialism. Andrew provides viewers with new ways to understand the world through intervention and expansion, reinterpreting history and re-framing our inherited experience.
His rich, research-based practice and museum and archival interventions have activated alternative histories and made forgotten stories visible in exhibitions at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, Musée d’ethnographie de Genève in Geneva, Paris’ Musée du Quai Branly and Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven. In 2012, he curated the highly regarded exhibition, “TABOO”, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.
Andrew has participated in the 9th Shanghai Biennale and the Echigo-Tsumari Triennial, Niigata Prefecture (2012); the 8th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane, and Asian Art Biennial, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung (2015); and the Yinchuan Biennale, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), China (2016).
Of his appointment, Andrew commented:
I am honoured to be appointed Artistic Director of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney in 2020. As Artistic Director, I am interested in shining a light on the active, stable and rich pre-existing collaborations and connectivity of Indigenous and Edge cultures. I aim to work together with artists, collectives and communities, from Australia and around the globe, to reconfigure the world as we see it and reveal rich local and global rhizomes and unique individual cultural expressions in one place.
Brook Andrew was selected for the role of Artistic Director by a search committee, which included among its members Dr Sook-Kyung Lee, Senior Research Curator at Tate Research Centre: Asia, London; Suhanya Raffel, Executive Director, M+, West Kowloon, Hong Kong; and Aaron Seeto, Director MACAN Museum, Jakarta. The Biennale of Sydney also consulted closely with Exhibition Partners Art Gallery of New South Wales, Artspace, Carriageworks and Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.
Jo-Anne Birnie-Danzker, Director and CEO of the Biennale of Sydney, commented:
The Biennale of Sydney plays an indispensable role in Australia’s engagement with the world, and a meaningful role in the life of the nation. In 2018, it attracted visitation of more than 850,000, the highest level in the Biennale’s 45-year history. Brook Andrew’s commitment to alternative narratives and new understandings of historical legacies will further strengthen the Biennale’s commitment to the rich, diverse communities it serves, nationally and globally.
The Memory of History
Motivated by research and enquiry, Andrew’s works often have a particular focus on memory, both individual and collective, and the way objects are infused with their own stories. Working closely with museum collections and archives, Andrew investigates the history of objects – which can often be contradictory and controversial – laying them bare for the world to see and asking audiences to rethink accepted ideas and learned inaccuracies. An avid collector, Andrew has amassed a personal compendium of cultural objects, print articles, photographs, postcards and other items that make up the raw material he draws on to create installations and assemblages that aim to throw light on the darkest, most obscure aspects of history.
Andrew was a participating artist in the Biennale of Sydney in both 2010 and 2018. For the 17th Biennale in 2010, he presented a work entitled Jumping Castle War Memorial (2010), which playfully transformed a civic monument into an op-art fairground attraction. For the 21st Biennale, held earlier this year, Andrew presented a multimedia installation work called What’s Left Behind (2018) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.
What’s Left Behind comprised five sculptural vitrines that represent the elements of water, air, fire, earth and metal. Andrew invited four artists to contribute to the installation, asking each person to reflect on the idea of memory and that which is present yet also absent, and the way objects can have transferable and alternate realities and meanings, imbued with their own or substitute histories and stories. The contributing artists, Rushdi Anwar, Shiraz Bayjoo, Mayun Kiki and Vered Snear, placed a combination of artworks and objects selected from the extensive collection of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney, within each of Andrew’s sculptural vitrines. Each sculpture represented an individual archive that was part of the collective installation, and addressed the complex relationship between objects and the meanings that are attributed to them.
His distinguished 25-year career was recently recognised with a large-scale, immersive exhibition, “The Right to Offend is Sacred” at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia. In 2017, Brook Andrew was awarded the prestigious Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (SARF) and he is presently concluding an ambitious, three-year-long Australian Research Council grant, “Representation, Remembrance and the Memorial”. This project responds to calls for a national memorial to Aboriginal loss during the Frontier Wars, a series of conflicts between Indigenous Australians and European settlers from 1788 to the 1930s.
Andrew’s appointment puts the artist at the epicentre of the Biennale of Sydney’s next edition. As Kate Mills, Chairman of the Biennale of Sydney, said,
The artist is at the centre of our work at the Biennale of Sydney. We are therefore delighted to announce the appointment of one of Australia’s most distinguished artists, Brook Andrew, as Artistic Director of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney. He has consistently modelled national and global collaboration and the sharing of knowledge in both his artistic and exhibition-making practice.
The Biennale of Sydney offers an exciting geographical perspective for debate, controversy and cutting-edge discussions. As we collectively face an increasingly complex future, we are proud to celebrate the substantive, transformative creative practice of Brook Andrew as he imagines alternative visions for the future.