| Jeremy Eaton
kith and kin Archie Moore, 2024. 60th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia. Pavilion of Australia. Photo: Matteo de Mayda. Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia . Installation view.


Editorial | Jeremy Eaton

2024 sees a flurry of key large-scale exhibitions reprise across the globe. From the most well-known and long-running Venice Biennale, the locally vital Sydney and Adelaide Biennales, to new events on the global art tour, such as the first Austronesian Triennial. Diverse in directive, scale, audience and budget these exhibitions whilst plural have shared impetus that has shifted over the last few years. Once providing a particularly Western overview of the latest in contemporary art, attention turned to the Global South and First Nations praxis has informed, amongst other things, wide-ranging curatorial exegesis that entwine the historical with the contemporary (strategies underlying this year’s Sydney Biennale and Adriano Pedrosa’s Arsenale exhibition Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere). And whilst large-scale events continue to play an important role in tourism and act as opportunities for urban and regional regeneration, beyond their fiscal benefit, as ruangrupa’s documenta fifteen lumbung and the 2023-2024 Austronesian Triennial forefronts, these events also facilitate global gatherings where new networks of political solidarity can be imagined and enacted.

The cultural, economic and political alignments of these events, their infrastructure, who they represent and their response (or lack-there-of) to current geo-political circumstances more-and-more act as the parameters within which they are measured and discussed. And in 2024 with Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and Israel’s decimation of Gaza at the forefront of the global consciousness, a lens of urgency, polarisation and conflict frames arts affects, experience and responsibilities.

It is the discourse that emerges from the nebulous politics of art festivals that reveals their dynamic relationship to, on the one hand, unique contexts and communities, and on the other, contemporaneous global struggles, sentiments and aims for justice. Contributing to this discourse, Art + Australia charts large-scale art events and key exhibitions on this continent and abroad in this issue titled ‘The Sun’. We have borrowed the celestial motif from two key shows exhibited during 2024 in Australia. The 24th Sydney Biennale Ten Thousand Suns curated by Cosmin Costinaş and Inti Guerrero and the 2024 Perth Festival Ngaangk a Noongar word for 'Our star, the sun and also the Noongar term for mother, Ngaangk nourishes everyone and everything that grows and thrives on Noongar Boodjar.' The sun of Ngaangk and Costinaş and Guerrero's Ten Thousand Suns express a desire for optimism, nourishment and celebration.

Yet, with climate crises and global conflicts ever present, the sun/s, of Ten Thousand Suns in particular, also can’t help but evoke scorched earth, inhospitable living conditions, and the 1958 book Brighter than a Thousand Suns published in response to the making and dropping of atomic bombs. At once a life giver, able to shed light and provide sustenance and also harbinger of perilous times such as drought, the sun and its blinding rays acts as a metaphorical parallel to the discussions and perspectives on art, large-scale exhibitions and politics explored in this issue.

Tracking many exhibitions and events through reviews and dialogues; alongside discussions of art, value, collectivity, politics and history, 'The Sun' holds diverse and at times conflicting positions on art's role in the present. In Andy Butler's discussion of both the aforementioned Sydney Biennale and curator José Da Silva's Adelaide Biennale of Australian Art, Inner Sanctum, he highlights the need for largescale exhibitions to structurally address the inequities pervading their infrastructure in times of crisis. Paul Boyé, similarly, considers the broader context of two key works exhibited in the Perth Festival, Linda Tegg and Vivienne Hansen's Wetland and Rebecca Baumann's Light Event, and the public and private zones they imagine within an unromantic and hostile Perth CBD. 

Whilst these writers critically contend with the apparatus that supports cultural industries, others in 'The Sun' highlight how global movement can be leveraged for collective practice, as Indigenous artists and artists from the Global South lay the groundwork to re-configure institutional and political dynamics. The Austronesian Triennial located in the mountains of Pingtung County, Taiwan and curated by Nakaw Putun and Etan Pavavalung, discussed by Reuben Keehan, charts a new direction for Indigenous curation in the region. Sally Butler explores Indonesian collective Taring Padi’s exhibition Taring Padi: Tanah Tumpah Darah at Griffith University Art Museum. Collaborating with Meanjin-based Indigenous art collective ProppaNow, Butler highlights the capacity for collectives such as Taring Padi to develop ‘economic and racial justice coalitions’. And whilst Andy Butler expresses a limit to the cumulative carnivalesque political expressions in the Sydney Biennale, Mel Deerson and Tessa Laird perceive these curatorial strategies as an alternate politics of immersion.

These exhibitions, as the authors discuss, show how communities are connecting across the globe to imagine a new world but also share experiences of grief and pain as the effects of colonisation continue to unfold. This is particularly brought home in Zhila Gholami's article which explores a moment of solidarity in the vital work of Marrugeku, an interdisciplinary Indigenous dance company. As Gholami highlights Marrugeku’s performance Jurrungu Ngan-ga/ Straight Talk worked with Kurdish-Iranian writer Behrouz Boochani and Iranian-Australian scholar and activist Omid Tofighian to integrate Kurdish dance in a climactic moment of joy and connection. Gholami captures the way culture perseveres, and how Jurrungu Ngan-ga/ Straight Talk expresses shared resilience between Australia’s Indigenous population and refugees who are subject to Australia’s inhumane carceral system.

Australia's incarceration and treatment of Indigenous people has been a blight on the country since the dispossession of colonisation, and as Archie Moore's meditative yet charged Australian Pavilion for the Venice Biennale kith and kin highlights, it is a tragedy that needs to be named. Winner of the coveted Golden Lion, an Australian first and only the second time a pavilion outside of Europe and North America to receive the accolade in Venice’s history. Moore's exhibition is discussed by Jon Bywater who charts the installation's constituent elements, its atmosphere and the political dialectic that emerges between the juxtaposition of two distinct yet linked forms of memorialisation and remembrance. 

Just as Bywater highlights the deep histories drawn out by Moore and the absences that pervade naming those histories, Chris Parkinson in conversation with Maria Madeira explore her mournful and poignant work exhibited as the first Timor Leste pavilion curated by Australian Natalie King OAM. Madeira's use of the Tais and her act of kissing in Kiss and Don’t Tell weaves ancestral forms of storytelling into a personal and embodied relay of unsung women’s resistance cadres during Indonesia’s hostile occupation of the island nation. Madeira's words powerfully punctuate Parkinson's article and capture arts capacity to cut through silence.

The issue also includes long form articles on art and value, the building of a catalogue raisonné and the science/art intersection of Oron Catt’s dinner that speculates on forthcoming global food scarcity. The various contributions published in 'The Sun' reveal a dynamic at play, as authors grapple with art, performative optimism, excessive spectacle, and arts ongoing capacity to connect and contend with the political through practices of collectivity and global solidarity. What comes to the fore in 'The Sun', are not just some of the inequities that prop up art but artists ongoing capacity to challenge publics, imagine new collective formations and shed light on distinct communities, cultural practices and unspoken histories.

Links & Info

Art + Australia
Publisher: Victorian College of the Arts
University of Melbourne

Art + Australia ISSN 1837-2422

All content published after October 2023 by Art + Australia is available under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International Licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) except where otherwise stated. For more information about use and distribution you can view our Editorial Guidelines.