Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Free/State

The ‘Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Free/State’ sets the wheels in motion for a new life rhythm. Presented as part of Adelaide Festival, from 4 March to 5 June, the Art Gallery of South Australia’s (AGSA) 31st ‘Adelaide Biennial’ is showcasing work by 25 contemporary artists whose creative provocations awaken new ways of looking at the world, bring untold histories to the surface, and explore the current and impending challenges we face in this age of continuous global upheavals.

Kate Scardifield, 07—Canis Major (wind instrument 2) 34°46’18.3”S150°49’23.8”E Studies in Semaphore and Signalling, 2019, sailcloth, rip-stop nylon, repurposed parachute silk, thread, dimensions variable. Photograph: Robin Hearfield. Courtesy the artist and Art Gallery of South Australia

Themes of resilience, adaptability and survival manifest across video, painting, sculpture, film, interactive works and large-scale installations, which are on display across various exhibition spaces throughout the gallery, and on the outer façade.

As a prelude to what ‘Free/State’ has in store, Kate Scardifield’s ten-metre-long sails will billow from the heights of AGSA’s frontage “bringing together art and climate science to chart the shifting material states of sail cloth as a metaphor for the climate crisis,” the gallery notes. Moving to the entrance visitors are sure to be enchanted by multidisciplinary artist Darren Sylvester’s invitation to step through his neon sci-fi portal.

Sebastian Goldspink Curator of the 2022 Biennial says “Free/State has been developed through extraordinary times; the past two years have been wild and unpredictable, and artists have shown exceptional resilience in the face of challenges.

“…Throughout, they have continued to make meaning through works that embrace the duality and unpredictability of our collective contemporary existence. Free/State uses ideas of improvisation in forms such as jazz as a driving force. Improvisation is responsive, present, and immediate. This is the rhythm of Free/State,” he continues.

A program of talks and events will be held over the vernissage weekend from 4 to 6 March. The opening celebrations kick off at 6pm on Friday 4 March, with Loren Kronemyer’s (Pony Express collective) performance Abolish the Olympics. Over one hour, Kronemyer will enact 33 Olympic sports accompanied by a musical score created by DJ Hosting. Audiences will also have the chance to hear from some of the artists who will be sharing insights about their work. Every Sunday of each month for the duration of ‘Free/State’ children and families are invited to unleash their inner superhero with Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay artist Dennis Golding’s superhero cape making sessions, as well as music, performances and exhibition tours. More information is available on the gallery website.  

Dennis Golding, Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay people, New South Wales, born Sydney 1989, Redfern ‘The Block’, 2018, Courtesy the artist and Art Gallery of South Australia

Among the many thought-provoking works are Tracey Moffat’s 28-minute film Heaven, 1997, which captures the ritual of male surfing culture on the golden sands of Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach. Dennis Golding brings a major new sculptural installation to the stage that decolonises the Victorian architecture of ‘The Block’ in Sydney’s Redfern where he grew up. Laith McGregor conjures notions of renewed hope in Strange Days, 2022, a remarkable installation of over 1,000 bottles, arranged to spell the Morse code distress signal S.O.S in very large letters. The bottles are filled with personal messages McGregor collected from the public in the lead up to ‘Free/State’.

A major installation by the late Hossein Valamanesh (1949-2022) and his wife Angela Valamanesh, reflect on the duo’s lifetime of collaborative practice, shared and personal histories, perceptions of home, and their love for each other and art. Julie Rrap’s interactive installation Write Me, 2022, calls on visitors to engage with the work by writing to a virtual Rrap using the keyboard provided. The typed words will appear on a screen of multiple images of the artist’s face that become distorted with each activated keystroke.

Julie Rrap, Font Face from the installation Write Me, 2021–22, Sydney, twenty-six gelatin-silver photographs on Perspex, 50 x 50cm (each panel). Courtesy the artist, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Arc One Gallery, Melbourne and Art Gallery of South Australia

Stanislava Pinchuk’s marble sculptural installation titled The Wine Dark Sea, 2021, underlines the “narratives we choose to accept and celebrate, and those we choose to ignore”, such as the treatment of people in detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island. Classical texts from the epic poem of Homer’s Odyssey merge with information sourced from incident reports from these island holding facilities. And by painting directly onto the AGSA’s walls Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY Lands) artist Rhoda Tjitayi’s traditional stories of culture and Country bring vibrant energy and visual storytelling to the institution’s colonial architecture.

Artists: Abdul-Rahman Abdullah (WA), Serena Bonson (NT), Mitch Cairns (NSW), Dean Cross (NSW), Shaun Gladwell (VIC), Dennis Golding (NSW), Loren Kronemyer (TAS), Laith McGregor (NSW), Kate Mitchell (QLD), Tracey Moffatt (NSW), Stanislava Pinchuk (VIC), Tom Polo (NSW), JD Reforma (NSW), Reko Rennie (VIC), Julie Rrap (NSW), Kate Scardifield (NSW), Darren Sylvester (VIC), Jelena Telecki (NSW), Rhoda Tjitayi (SA), James Tylor & Rebecca Selleck (ACT), Angela & Hossein Valamanesh (SA), Sera Waters (SA) and Min Wong (NSW).

Art Gallery of South Australia is open daily from 10am to 5pm, and online on the first Friday of each month.