If we’d forgotten how good Sydney could be, a ferry trip to Cockatoo Island for the 18th Biennale of Sydney was a quick reminder.
Cockatoo Island has become a fabulous asset to the Sydney art scene. It makes you feel excited just to be there. It was the perfect venue for last year’s Outpost Festival of street art and street culture.
The Biennale also has more conventional homes in the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art, but for a bit of rough and tumble it’s hard to beat the former industrial site on the island.
Biennale provides free ferries from Circular Quay, though we took the regular harbour ferry from Balmain, hopping across to Greenwich and Woolwich along the way. On a sparkling day, the twenty-minute ride was too short, even for the four year old grandson.
Major cutting edge art exhibitions are not normally designed with four year olds in mind. The beauty of Cockatoo Island is that there is space for large scale works which make use of the environment and the setting. When we emerged from the dark tunnel housing Daan Roosegaarde’s Dune, the grandson was very taken by the cold mist squirting from unseen vents.
We really liked New Zealander Peter Robinson’s use of polystyrene chains, enveloping the rusting machinery of Cockatoo Island’s old shipyards.
Canadian Philip Beesley’s work looks delicate, but we were assured it was supposed to be interactive. The LED lights are activated by viewers rubbing wires or moving through the sensors – perfect toys for grandchildren.
The Biennale, Australia’s largest visual arts event, runs until September 16th. Entry is free. If you can’t get there this time, arrange to be in Sydney when it returns in two years’ time.