A digital exhibit to elevate Indigenous art

In March 2020, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney opened to wide
acclaim—only to close after 10 days because of COVID-19. The
Biennale has since physically reopened to limited audiences, but
now, through a virtual exhibit on
Google Arts & Culture
, people all over the world can
experience it.�

This year’s Biennale is led by First Nations artists, and
showcases work from marginalized communities around the world,
under the artistic direction of the Indigenous Australian artist,
Brook Andrew. It’s titled NIRIN—meaning “edgeâ€â€”a word of
Brook’s mother’s Nation, the Wiradjuri people of western New
South Wales.


To commemorate the opening of this unique exhibition, and learn
more about its origins and purpose, we spoke with Jodie Polutele,
Head of Communications and Community Engagement at the Biennale of

Tell us about the theme of this year’s exhibition. 

NIRIN is historic in its focus on the unresolved nature of
Australian and global colonial history.  It presents the work of
artists and communities that are often relegated to “the edge” and
whose practices challenge dominant narratives. 

As a community, we’re at a critical point in time where these
voices, histories and spheres of knowledge are being heard and
shared. The recent Black Lives Matter protests in the United States
and in other parts of the world have triggered a belated awakening
in many people—particularly in Australia—about the real-life
impacts of systemic racism and inequality. But we have a long way
to go, and the art and ideas presented in NIRIN are one way to
start (or continue) the conversation.

What does this offer audiences, both in Australia,
and all over the world, particularly during this time? 

Many of the artworks ask audiences to be critical of dominant
historical narratives, and our own perspective and privilege; we
are forced to recognize and question our own discomfort. In doing
so, they also present an opportunity to inspire truly meaningful

What are some of the highlights of the exhibition?
Some highlights include Healing
Land, Remembering Country
by Tony Albert, a sustainable
greenhouse which raises awareness of the Stolen Generations and
poses important questions about how we remember, give justice to
and rewrite complex and traumatic histories. Latai Taumoepeau’s
performance installation
on Cockatoo Island explores the
fragility of Pacific Island nations and the struggle of rising sea
levels and displacement. Zanele Muholi’s three
bodies of work
at the Museum of Contemporary Art look at the
politics of race, gender and sexuality. Wiradjuri artist Karla
Dickens’ installation A
Dickensian Circus
presents a dramatic collection of objects
inside the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ grand vestibule,
reclaiming the space to share the hidden stories and histories of
Indigenous people.

  • 14NDt0iqdCS.png

    Tony Albert’s sustainable
    , posing important questions about historical and
    intergenerational trauma.

  • NNrATUT7CE2.png

    Watch Latai Taumoepeau’s endurance performance, The Last

  • cUzrYjsGXev.png

    These rusty, bent and gnarly sculptures in grand surroundings by
    divulge the hidden histories and stories of
    marginalised people.

  • dtdzi2DrCqF.png

    Noŋgirrŋa Marawili’s stringybark painted with magenta ink
    cartridges found on the land adhere to the philosophy, ‘If you
    paint the land you should use the land’.

  • rkJ6G4JPS6G.png

    Listen to Nicholas
    talk about his artwork – an excavation and bush burial
    of the shadow cast by the Captain Cook statue  in Sydney’s Hyde

  • 2XHrTKyCob4.png

    The beautiful landscapes and powerful messages of the Iltja
    Ntjarra (Many Hands) Arts Centre
    ‘dollar shop’ bags
    trace stories of Country with messages
    of housing and displacement.

This virtual exhibit was not what you originally
imagined. Can you tell us what hurdles you have had to

The Biennale of Sydney takes more than two years to produce with a
team of dedicated people. Closing the exhibitions and cancelling or
postponing a program of more than 600 events was devastating. But
with the enormous support of the Google Arts & Culture team, we
have delivered a virtual exhibition that is respectful of
artists’ works and conveys the true vision of NIRIN—inspiring
conversation and action through a meaningful arts experience. We
hope that NIRIN on Google Arts &
will be an enduring legacy for the exhibition, and also
for the talented team who made it happen.

Source: FS – Social Media Blogs 2
A digital exhibit to elevate Indigenous art