During the school holidays, little Miss and I visited Cockatoo Island for the first time to coincide with the Biennale of Sydney SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium & Engagement exhibition. A few ferries later and we arrived on the island and first impression - we need to come back! I didn't even step into the beautiful old buildings and warehouses, I knew that it was going to be a place full of history and with the Biennale of Sydney and some kids art activities - even better!
We made our way inside the main warehouse where most of the exhibits were installed and walked through the shipping containers by Yukinori Yanagi and explored the notion of human existence and looked at our reflection in the mirrors and looked down into our endless mirror reflection at the last space of the exhibit.
We then walked towards Martin Walde's time piece where every six minutes a printed sheet of paper with a date on it flies down from an elevated printer giving visitors a concept of time and the passing of years. There are quite a few other exhibits on the island however we have chosen to highlight a few of our favourites.
Of course, the pièce de résistance at the Biennale of Sydney for Cockatoo Island would have to be Ai Weiwei's piece on the refugee crisis in the world. I have personally loved Ai Weiwei's work since 2015 when he launched the Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei exhibition and the Studio Cats installation for kids exhibitions at the NGV Melbourne. I was very inspired by his talk during the media preview as he has always been an artist and activist but only since 2014-2015 has he been allowed to leave China to continue his work because of the Chinese government and freedom of speech restrictions.
Ai’s Law of the Journey creates an imposing statement. Featuring a 60-metre-long boat crowded with hundreds of anonymous refugee figures, the work brings the monumental scale of the humanitarian crisis sharply into focus and lets us reflect on human rights.
Throughout our visit, I couldn't help but snap photos of the old buildings on Cockatoo Island. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cockatoo Island was once home to prisoners and convicts who were put to work there to build prison barracks, a military guardhouse, hand-carved granary silos, Fitzroy Dock and hundreds of boats before World War I. Learning about the history of this island would take another visit in my opinion as there is so much to learn however we did explore as we could on this visit.
We took a break from wondering the exhibits to attend one of the school holiday art workshops run by Samantha Relihan where we added our many creations to the love message board setup while other children were taking part in building a Collaborative sculpture made from reusable products.
After some time creating our own masterpieces, we headed back to the old warehouses to continue our art journey where we saw Mit Jai Inn's work which defies conventional boundaries both physically and conceptually. Mit’s artworks often appear as hybrid objects – paintings that could be sculptures, or sculptures that incorporate painted methods. This was by far little Miss' favourite installation as she loves paint and painting.
Pieces from Tawatchai Puntusawasd fitted one of the old warehouse's space nicely. A Dim Night, a smaller companion piece (shown below) made from brass and nickel alloy allows the viewer to examine the sculpture in its entirety, manifesting the human striving towards knowledge. The sculpture is displayed alongside a new series of engravings on copper sheet documenting Puntusawasdi’s process.
Little Miss was quite intrigued by Abraham Cruzvillegas' pieces and told me that she 'made some of these at preschool' - kids are so funny sometimes ha! I don't think her preschool work would compare to Cruzvillegas' pieces but it's cute! Cruzvillegas uses objects and repurposed materials and ensures he recognises the life and history inherent in each article.
While exploring other Biennale of Sydney installations throughout Cockatoo Island, we stopped to admire some of the old buildings on the island including guards, prisoners quarters as well as the convict punishment cells. Cockatoo Island is a place rich in history and one which is great for families to visit throughout the year. We look forward to heading there during the warmer months and enjoy a wonder around the island and a picnic with friends. We really enjoyed our visit on the island for the Biennale of Sydney and highly recommend it.