New work by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei which explores the European refugee crisis will be on show at the 21st Biennale of Sydney, which opens in March 2018. Photograph: John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images
New works by Ai Weiwei and Brook Andrew will feature in the 21st Biennale of Sydney, artistic director Mami Kataoka announced on Thursday, in the first lineup reveal for the event which opens in March 2018.
Kataoka, who has worked with Ai Weiwei since 2007, said the controversial Chinese artist and activist was developing new work that engaged with the European refugee crisis.
The preliminary lineup also includes Finnish video artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Vietnamese film-maker Nguyen Trinh Thi, printmaker Ciara Phillips, and Australian artists Yasmin Smith and George Tjungurrayi.
Other highlights announced so far include sound artist Oliver Beer, who will bring his ongoing Resonance Project, which makes use of the human voice to explore the relationship between sound and space, to the Sydney Opera House.
Inspired by the concept of equilibrium, Kataoka said she is interested in developing a range of themes for the biennale’s 45th anniversary, including the movements of people across history and how different cultures and civilisations perceive the idea of nature.
The Japanese curator, who has been chief curator at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo since 2003 and is the biennale’s first Asian artistic director, [word missingsaid she was interested in the history of colonisation in Australia, and drew a parallel between the colonisation of Asian regions, highlighting the complexity of the competing ideas about land ownership throughout history.
“I had been looking into the idea of nature from a Japanese perspective for quite a long time. But I think there is a beautiful resonance with [Australian] Indigenous culture, and how that would speak with western, modern idea of nature,” she told Guardian Australia.
Kataoka will shortly be travelling to Uluru, Alice Springs and Adelaide with four of the 21 artists announced so far, including conceptual artist Anya Gallaccio, cross-disciplinary artist Laurent Grasso, and photographers Noguchi Rika and Haegue Yang, to meet with Indigenous artists including Yvonne Koolmatrie, in the hope they will create new works inspired by encounters with Indigenous cultures and the diverse Australian landscape.
“The biennale is a great opportunity for me to rethink or to look at the world of today, geographically, and also historically,” Kataoka said. “We are really living in a time [in which] multiple, plural values are colliding and competing. How can we see this from a bigger perspective?”
The biennale will be held in Sydney from 16 March to 11 June 2018.
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