All Our Relations: 18th Biennale of Sydney 2012
Biennale of Sydney, $45 pb, 399 pp
The eighteenth Biennale of Sydney was premised on the establishment of a new paradigm of conversation and collaboration between the two curators, participating artists, and the exhibition audience. Reacting against perceived disconnections between people and cultures in a modern era of individualism, the exhibition and accompanying catalogue proposed a new model for relating to one another and to the world we share, a model based on empathy and togetherness. Appropriately then, much of the work in the exhibition was aesthetically beautiful, particularly the installations at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Gao Rong’s lifelike recreation in fabric of her grandparents’ modest home in northern China set the craft-oriented tone of the exhibition, each humble domestic item painstakingly embroidered by the artist. This poignant labour of love was not simply a novelty designed to catch viewers off guard (which it did), but a thought-provoking re-casting of the ordinary as extraordinary.