This year’s Biennale of Sydney, titled rivus, highlights the rivers, wetlands and other salt and freshwater ecosystems present in our lives. And though there are a number of incredible exhibitions to see, the Biennale isn’t just about art. The Waterhouse, based out of The Cutaway at Barangaroo, is the Biennale’s events and experiences program, and is featuring a huge number of events and collective experiences like poetry readings, short films, interactive talks and activities throughout the festival.
Lleah Smith is the Biennale’s curator of programs and learning. “The exhibition holds artworks, [while] The Waterhouse holds people and ideas,” she says of the program. “The idea of The Waterhouse is to acknowledge the teacher in everything and everyone and to get together for collective learning experiences with strangers. We all have life experience, and we all have something to teach.”
There’s lots to choose from the program, so we asked Smith to share her top picks for what to see and do.
School of Water
The theme of many events at this year’s Biennale are centred on protecting endangered waterways and honouring their place in our lives. On May 28 and 29 artists, architects, scientists and dynamic thinkers will lead a discussion on the topic at The Waterhouse, and – along with ticket-holders – build a real-life “watering hole” that will live at The Waterhouse as a monument to the Biennale’s theme. Simple materials like paper and upcycled fabrics will be involved, but Smith says there’s no blueprint of what the watering hole will look like. “It’ll be a collective process dictated by the discussions that happen on the day,” she says.
River Conversations is a First Nations-led event that will discuss the place of the river in our lives and honour indigenous knowledge. On Friday April 22, a boat will depart from Circular Quay and travel along the Parramatta River with Leanne Tobin, Dharug woman and multidisciplinary artist, leading a talk on nurturing and protecting the river. On Saturday April 23 the boat will be docked near Barangaroo where Cudgenburra/Bundjalung man Clarence Slockee (of Gardening Australia fame) will talk with Justice Md Ashraful Kamal from Bangladesh about the effect of giving our rivers legal personhood.
Space In Between
Designed to make you consider places in Sydney you’ve probably walked through a hundred times, the Space In Between is a series of free self-guided walks that connect the main venues of the Biennale. Download a map at the event’s website and choose a path – each contains three to four activities to take on designed by local and international artists. “There are listening activities, things to look at and workshops to do,” says Smith. “You can start wherever you want, walk the full path or just walk from one venue to the next - it’s like a choose-your-own adventure activity.”
Art after Dark
Every Wednesday night from 5pm until 9pm the Biennale is staying open after-hours as part of Art After Dark. “It’s more of a party vibe,” says Smith. “We have Galleria Campari, Mary’s and P&V downstairs and there’s free live music, along with a walk, a performance and a film screening.” Each week there’s a different theme that ties back to one of the Biennale’s exhibitions - on April 13 hear poet Eunice Andrada read a poem meditating on violence witnessed in connection with bodies of water as part of Hydrofeminism, and on May 25 fashion designer Gary Bigeni will talk his non-binary clothing label and the gendering of fabrics ins Queer Ecologies.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Biennale of Sydney.