Dos and don’ts of the 19th Biennale of Sydney

| April 1, 2014

The 19th Biennale of Sydney is well under way with art and events staged across Sydney. Mel Thatcher went to the art show on Cockatoo Island and has some practical tips to get the most out of the visit.

Last week I visited Cockatoo Island for Australia’s largest contemporary visual arts festival, the 19th Biennale of Sydney. When visiting such an enormous art show you need a plan of attack – and of course I didn’t have one. So after learning the hard way, here are my tips in getting the most out of your visit to an island full of art!

Let’s start with transport:

The Biennale main event is the art show on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. There are two options in getting there – the biennale ferry or public transport.

Don’t queue up at the Circular Quay Biennale information booth expecting to buy a ticket for the Biennale ferry. Oddly you can’t buy tickets for this ferry in person at the ferry terminal. You must purchase them online. The booth is for Cockatoo Island maps and pamphlets only. Queuing here for ferry tickets is futile.

Do purchase ferry online tickets before you go, or head to terminal 5 and catch the public ferry service. It’s a bit more expensive but you also get to cruise more of the harbour. Upside!

Visiting times:

Do visit the Biennale on a weekday if at all possible. The crowds can be huge on the weekends, which could see you queuing to see artworks. I went on a Tuesday and there was hardly anyone around. I had the eerie experience of listening to Libia Castro & Ólafur Ólafsson’s sound recordings on my own in a deserted cage-like warehouse space. I felt like I was in the story! Amazing experience.

Libia Castro and Ólafur Ólafsson, Bosbolobosboco #4, 2004, audio sculpture

Libia Castro and Ólafur Ólafsson, Bosbolobosboco #4, 2004, audio sculpture

Don’t turn up after lunch and expect to see everything. This year’s exhibition on Cockatoo Island is very heavy on the video installations! This means you need A LOT of time to sit and watch them all. My absolute favourite was I AM THE RIVER by Eva Kosh. It’s an enormous waterfall video installation set in a huge industrial building – I’m a sucker for things done on a grand scale!

Eva Koch, I AM THE RIVER, 2012 video installation


Do get involved.  Art is not only about looking at things sometimes you can be a part of the artwork. Gerda Steiner & Jörg Lenzlinger’s mixed media installation BUSH POWER is an absolute laugh and the most fun you will ever have at the gym. Trust me – just try it.

Don’t leave it too late to go on the ghost train – THE OTHER SIDE by Callum Morton. Although the Biennale itself only closes at 5pm, this installation closes early. It was all packed up by 4.30, so, sadly I missed one of the big-ticket items of the 19th BOS.

However, there is always time to visit again, as the 19th Biennale of Sydney runs until the 9th June 2014. More information about this event can be found here.

Photos © The Arty Type 2014