The Biennale is a Sydney event that hosts various local and international heavy hitters in historical and well-established places for the Arts. Such as the MCA, AGNSW and Cockatoo Island. Safari, on the other hand, is the unofficial side dish to the Biennale of Sydney. It offers the emerging, unrepresented and alternative Australian arts scene to the public. Despite its name, reeking of old age jungle trips, long expeditions and endless crossings over hot heavy plains in the hunt for big game. Safari is mostly located in these three easy to reach locations:
Lvl 2, Kings Cross car park,
9a Elizabeth bay road
(behind the police station)
The Rocks Pop-up
13 Cambridge street
75 ½ George street (right behind the MCA)
The Bus Projects
Saturday: Campbell Cove, The Rocks
Sunday: Taylor Square, Surry Hills
A must see would definitely be 75 ½ George Street:
Humanizing the specter of the artist, in the down to earth work titled ‘Day Job’, Jodie Whalen takes on mundane rituals of 9-5 work in a self-reflexive interactive performance. Equipped with pamphlets of information, business cards, black biros and short clips of previous work Whalen merges the normative understanding of work with the distant, revered or disregarded work of an artist. Whalen’s practice explores the mundane, from simple routines to ritualistic patterns. Echoing, reducing and clarifying these procedures in our lives, Whalen uses repetition and endurance in her work often to address the absurdity of day-to-day existence. Discussing her entire practice in a mini office-like space there are strange jumps between understanding Whalen as artist, as agent, as having an immediate individual conversation or catching on the fact that the information she dishes out has been repeated countless times.
Another fantastic piece is Huw Lewis’ creation of the disturbing nighttime place of a child’s bedroom in ‘Dead to the world’. A sleeping figure, distorted childhood productions, like small crude figurines of heroes or villains and wax crayon sketches inspired by tv shows and comic books, occupy a small room in the town house at 75 ½ George Street. But not all is as it seems, and similar to waking in the middle of the night, and darkness making the toys in your bedroom sinister and watchful, all the detail and relationships between objects created in this fictional space reveal dark and disturbing connections. The interrelatedness between all the objects comes together to create a sense of muted horror, which I believe stems from a bizarre feeling of familiarity. All the objects in the room have been fabricated, obviously so, there are no attempts at visual realism, at trompe l’oeil. There is the obvious presence of material and the artist’s hand. But that is simply the consideration of surfaces. What Lewis manages to do is capture a startling authenticity in his production; the room feels like it was modeled on a real child’s room. The bedroom feels like it has been played in, lived in, that the space has been occupied, is occupied. So our presence in the room, our intrusion into the silent sleeping tableaux, is like a stranger stumbling through time and space, to a boy's bedroom that has been physically infused with subconscious terrors.
Other fantastic work is at this venue, and I think it was my favourite for the way the works that really filled, and had a sense of, the spaces they inhabited. Even sound works that usually bleed out and intrude on the readings of other pieces managed to cohabitate peacefully and productively. Daniel McKewer’s video piece in particular with its waves of stuttering digital crash never once argued, in my opinion, with Julian Day’s ongoing sonorous vibrations.
Alas Alas Safari is at its end, with only one more weekend to go. My suggestion for this week is to ignore the Biennale for a couple of days and head down to those three venues. For more information about look at the Safari website.