I don’t have that much to say about the 19th Biennale of Sydney as a whole — like most shows of this scale there was work I liked and work I didn’t. But the framing of the 19th Biennale — “You Imagine What You Desire” — seemed very “European” and individualist, compared to the more anthropological/comparativist “All Our Relations” of 2012. This intuition, not unrelated to the distribution of unfreedom that led to the activism around major sponsor Transfield’s involvement in mandatory detention, required sociological exploration rather than close reading. So I ran some numbers on where the selected artists live and work, and the results are graphed below.
As an aside, I think “You Desire What You Can Imagine” is more technically accurate.
Country Artists in (Identifying as Indigenous) Workplace OCEANIA Australia 19.50 3.00 New Zealand 1.00 1.00 EUROPE Germany 10.83 UK 10.50 Norway 8.00 Netherlands 7.50 France 5.50 Switzerland 5.00 Poland 4.00 Denmark 3.50 Finland 3.00 Belgium 2.83 Sweden 2.00 Hungary 2.00 Ireland 1.00 Austria 1.00 Turkey 0.33 NORTH AMERICA United States 5.50 Canada 2.00 ASIA China 2.50 Israel 1.33 AFRICA Egypt 1.00 Democratic Republic of the Congo 0.33* This is a back-of-the-envelope calculation of where artists in 19th Biennale of Sydney work, based on the attribution provided in the catalogue. Where an artist works in more than one place a fraction is applied – e.g. London and New York = 0.5 UK, 0.5 US. Artist duos and collaborations are treated as one unit unless a separate exhibition history is listed for each artist, in which case each artist is counted individually. Indigenous identification is listed where the artist has listed a non-nation-state affiliation. Mircea Cantor’s claim to work on “Earth” is not included as I see it as part of the problem. Fact-checking and improvements welcome.