Preview of the 19th Biennale of Sydney

 Roni Horn, Well and Truly, 2009–10, solid cast glass, ten units each 45.7 x 91.5 cm. Installation view (2010) at Kunsthaus Bregenz. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photograph: Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zürich


Preview of the 19th Biennale of Sydney


In conversation with Kym Elphinstone

The 19th Biennale of Sydney, "You Imagine What You Desire", under the artistic direction of Juliana Engberg, opens to the public on Friday 21 March 2014 and runs until 9 June 2014. Event information and list of artists, and their biographies, via
“You Imagine What You Desire" is an evocation celebrating the artistic imagination as a spirited describing and exploration of the world through metaphor and poesis...It reminds us that powerful art is not divorced from the cultural conditions, political, social and climatic environments in which it is generated. That indeed it often exists to provide a meta-commentary on these aspects of society – and even, sometimes, act as an antidote and proposition. As a future vision. "You Imagine What You Desire" seeks splendour and rapture in works that remain true to a greater, even sublime visuality. Today these things co-exist and overlap, and the tactics of theatricality cannot be separated from overtly social-situationist inspired works, just as they are central to works engaging with humanity at a grand scale.”

Bergman: The rapport you have in your working relationship with Juliana Engberg, the artistic director of the 19th Biennale of Sydney, must be paramount to contextualizing her vision and the reality of You Imagine What You Desire. How would you describe the extent of your responsibility as the lead strategic communicator? Would you like to comment on the advantages of your experience in the continuum of looking after public relations for this Biennale and the last two?

Elphinstone: We are privileged to have managed public relations for the Biennale of Sydney for six years and as such we’ve been privy to three incredible exhibitions. Each Biennale has a different feel and content, largely driven by the vision of the Artistic Director.

We’re particularly excited about the evocation that Juliana Engberg conceived for the 19th Biennale of Sydney: "You Imagine What You Desire." There is a level of subtlety and sensuality that seems evident with this Biennale and the artists who are presented. Our role in the development of the communications strategy has allowed us to watch the exhibition come together over the course of the past year to 18 months, as it is unveiled stage by stage. This process culminates in the installation stage where the artworks we have been writing about and researching for many years are revealed as physical works in each of the individual venues. We are at that stage as we do this interview.

Bergman: It’s an understatement to say you’re instrumental in creating anticipation and a very high level of pre-receptivity for the 2014 Biennale within Australia and beyond, in Oceania, the Americas, Asia and Europe. Since first impressions matter, why was the choice made to have that stunning video still from Phantom by Douglas Gordon as the zeitgeist?

Elphinstone: This decision was driven by the marketing team at the Biennale of Sydney who worked closely with a design agency. The image is both a striking one and is also a work by Douglas Gordon, one of highlight names in the Biennale this year. Douglas Gordon will also be presenting the artist keynote lecture, making his work central to the Biennale’s public program.

Bergman: Which three works in the 19th Biennale of Sydney can you predict are absolute “must-sees!”?

Elphinstone: I'm particularly looking forward to seeing the performance by Egle Budvytyte ‘Choregraphy for the Running Male’ which will take place around the Sydney CBD and throughout the Royal Botanic Gardens. This performance work will bring many Sydney residents and visitors into contact with the Biennale of Sydney exhibition during the course of their everyday activities. It will be interesting to watch people’s reactions!

Gabriel Lester’s installation at Carriageworks will also be a highlight. This major piece is undergoing installation now and is a large-scale work that will be presented in the centre of the Carriageworks space. Carriageworks is a major venue for the first time in 2014 and the former industrial rail yard offers a striking backdrop for the presentation of more than 30 art works in a non-traditional museum space.

Finally, I am very excited to see Roni Horn’s series of ten glass casting sculptures at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. The works have rough edges and fire blasted surfaces that appear to exude light. The works are both rarely seen and incredibly heavy – weighing several tons we understand.

Bergman: Would you reckon attendance at other biennales and the most recent dOCUMENTA has changed your approach to strategic communications for the Biennale, and perhaps stimulated exploration of alternate ways to increase its visibility?

Elphinstone: Our approach to every exhibition or art event is individually tailored and not necessarily influenced by wider global trends.

Bergman: Under your managing direction, [art]iculate has been instrumental in positioning Sydney as an important locus of contemporary visual culture. What would you say is the most incremental yet critical thing you’re doing to influence, even excel, this status in conjunction with the 19th Biennale of Sydney?

Elphinstone: The ability to position Sydney as a leader in contemporary culture ultimately comes back to the work that the artistic organisations and artists are presenting. We are lucky to work with an amazing array of clients who produce world class contemporary art projects in Sydney – and further afield – that we help spread the word about.

Bergman: Thank you, Kym. In this moment, we can only sense how our individual imaginations and desires will be synthesized by You Imagine What You Desire.

Douglas Gordon, Phantom, 2011 (video still), stage, screen, a black Steinway piano, a burned Steinway piano and monitor, dimensions variable. Courtesy lost but found; Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris; and Rufus Wainwright, ‘All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu’ used courtesy Decca Label Group. Copyright © lost but found; Rufus Wainwright; and VG Bild-Kunst, Germany (2013)


Kym Elphinstone. Photograph: courtesy of [art]iculate


[art]iculate, Australia's leading contemporary arts agency, specialising in strategic communication for the visual arts & contemporary culture sectors. Kym has worked with some of the world’s leading names in the arts, including the Biennale of Sydney, Art Basel Hong Kong, Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, and numerous eminent commercial galleries and major arts festivals. Kym worked with New York’s New Museum on the re-launch of the institution into purpose-built new premises, and in London was part of M&C Saatchi’s specialist arts division dedicated to aligning brands with bespoke artist projects. A former lawyer, she also holds post-graduate qualifications in art history and strategic marketing, and studied at The Sotheby’s Institute and Central St Martin’s College of Art and Design in London. Kym is a Board Director of Art Month Sydney and an avid contemporary art collector.




Amarie Bergman


Amarie Bergman formulates and makes reductive art, showing her work at non-objective art galleries located in Melbourne, Sydney and Paris. She writes occasionally for Whitehot Magazine and lives in Melbourne.



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