• Events such as Family Day: A Place of Gathering bring people together to celebrate food and stories. (Biennale of Sydney)Source: Biennale of Sydney
Eat, walk, watch or dance the night away during this creative festival's 87 days of events and exhibitions.
Kylie Walker

3 Mar 2020 - 2:09 PM  UPDATED 3 Mar 2020 - 2:09 PM

Fancy joining Kylie Kwong, Indigenous Elders Aunty Beryl Van Oploo and Aunty Ali Golding and food journalist Joanna Savill for a day of food, singing and stories; joining a salt walk and talk, or a soil workshop, or hearing how shared meals have been facilitating artists’ conversations?  

Then take a dive into the event program of this year’s Biennale of Sydney.

“You could literally eat your way through the 22nd Biennale of Sydney,” says Paschal Daantos Berry of the internationally recognised art festival that has been celebrating innovative, thought-provoking art since 1973.

‘Art’ is a wide-ranging term for the Biennale, which embraces a fascinating program of events in addition to physical exhibitions. This year, food is one of the multiple threads running through the festival, which kicks off on March 14 and runs until 8 June.  

“Yirawy-Dhuray is a Wiradjuri word meaning ‘yam-connection’ or ‘food’ and is one of the seven themes of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, titled NIRIN,” explains Berry, the Biennale’s curator of programs and learning and co-head, communications and community engagement.

NIRIN is a word from the language of the Wiradjuri people of western New South Wales - acclaimed Indigenous artist and Biennale artistic director Brook Andrew’s mother’s nation.

As well as exhibitions at six main sites across Sydney, NIRIN also features a program of free and ticketed events.

“NIRIN focuses on artists who bring people together, through the connection of place, history and culture. Food is something that unites us and binds us and has a strong presence in our interconnected and grass roots program NIRIN WIR (edge of the sky). We have various Biennale artists exploring food and community, and its place in uncovering histories and providing space to talk about difficult matters whilst being in a communal and safe space,” explains Berry, who has played a leading role in putting together the events program.

“In this year’s Biennale, Breaking Bread, a Cape Town based arts collective, are in a residency that will take place at the Sydney Observatory and Thirnning Villa in Ashfield. Supported by the Powerhouse Museum in collaboration with Inner West Council, the collective will host a few gatherings and exchanges with local and international artists and the wider community. The residency proposes alternative modes of creative practice, with food and knowledge sharing at its core – particularly within systems where relationships with institutions and the art market can prove complex and laborious."

“For many cultures, food is also about cultural survival.  In my own Filipino culture eating together was a subversive act during the American occupation. It allowed people to strategise and plot revolutions by creating coded maps on shared banquets,” says Berry, an Australian-Filipino curator, performance maker, dramaturg and writer, whose practice focusses on cross-cultural and collaborative processes. “In NIRIN, artists like Andrew Rewald and Kylie Kwong are working closely with Yerrabingin Indigenous Rooftop Farm to celebrate the sovereignty of Indigenous ingredients while highlighting the incredible work that Clarence Slockee and Christian Hampson have been doing in South Eveleigh.”

Other food-related events on offer include Saltwalks, a performance/walk looking at the mineral’s role in life, ritual and health; a soil creation event with artist Andrew Rewald and scientist Stephen Joseph that includes a workshop on watering and composting; and Adrift Lab, which looks at the impact of plastic. There’s also a special ARTBAR event, an after-dark, adults-only artist-driven night of performance and music at the MCA (grab a bite in the café then dance the night away on the rooftop terrace overlooking the Vivid lights).

Wending through these and other events is a focus on the environment and community. 

"With the recent catastrophic bush fires, the worst drought in history in Australia and high temperatures across the world, artists are rightfully focusing on current environmental concerns. Audiences ... can physically and intellectually connect with the realities," says Berry. 

Keen to find out more? Dig into the events program here to explore the more than 100 events, exhibitions and film screenings.

And if the event you want is sold out, don’t despair.

“This is an artist-led Biennale and artists are generous beings. It means that often, we have to be agile when artists want to offer something new to the public – so it’s really important to keep an eye on our socials for an element of surprise and chance!” Berry tells us, when we ask if there’s any chance of extra dates on some of the events.

NIRIN will feature more than 100 Australian and international artists. The exhibition program is open, free to the public, from 14 March until 8 June 2020, along side the free and ticked events of NIRIN WIR. Find out more at the Biennale website, and on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

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