TarraWarra Biennial

THE TARRAWARRA BIENNIAL 2014, entitled Whisper in My Mask is curated by Natalie King and Djon Mundine and marks the fourth iteration of a signature event on the national exhibition calendar for the private museum in rural Victoria.


This iteration is the first time that the TarraWarra Biennial has been curated by a collaborative duo, which is comprised of both an Indigenous and non-Indigenous curator. King and Mundine have worked together previous and, following on from the successful tour of their 2012/13 Asialink exhibition Shadowlife to Taiwan, Singapore, Bangkok and Bendigo, the pair have joined forces to pull together this impressive and diverse array of contemporary art.

Inaugurated in 2006 to identify new developments in contemporary art practice, the Biennial allows artists to present new work at the unique TarraWarra Museum of Art, highlighting pivotal aspects of Australian practice under an experimental curatorial platform.

TarraWarra Museum of Art Director, Victoria Lynn, says, “The TarraWarra Biennial, one of only two biennials of Australian art held in this country, is dedicated to showcasing contemporary and innovative works by Australian artists. The fourth TarraWarra Biennial provides visitors with the opportunity to witness a significant number of Indigenous artists alongside their non-Indigenous contemporaries”.

Taking a line from the evocative song ‘Art Groupie’ (1984) by singer, actress and model Grace Jones, the title of this year’s Biennial, Whisper in my Mask, signals an exploration of masking, secrets and hidden narratives as psychological states:

            Touch Me in a Picture,
            Wrap Me in a Cast,
            Kiss Me in a Sculpture,
            Whisper in My Mask
            (Art Groupie, Grace Jones, 1984)

The mask in its multifarious forms and functions can both reveal and conceal personas: it can protect, beautify, frighten or pacify, universalise or eternalise, intensifying and amplifying expression. In a selection of works that elicit an emotional and sensory response, the Biennial returns us to human senses and the Aboriginal Djambarrpuyngu people’s palate, experienced on a scale from ‘monuk’ (salt) to rapine (sweet). Moreover, masking suggests altered states of reverie and otherworldliness intertwined with hidden narratives, local mysteries and parapsychology.

The idea of disguise is also explored and manifests itself through the notions of tracing, inscription, erasure, secrets, camouflage, whisperings, dreamings and subterfuge. Each of these ideas are integral themes that the Biennial uses as trigger points  – incorporating a range of artworks made in a variety of media including sound, video, performance and participatory installation by cross-generational Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists.

The curators have undertaken extensive research and fieldwork to cities and remote communities in order to select Aboriginal and non-indigenous artists working across diverse media. Together, their collaborative curatorial methodology interrogates the work of lesser known artists alongside more established artists. Having worked at Ramingining and Maningrida, Djon Mundine has extensive networks in rural communities as well as affiliations with emerging and established artists in various cities. This wealth of on the ground knowledge and relationships with artists combined with Natalie King’s expertise in photography and moving image sees these two curators merge their vision and present a both a visually stimulating and thought-provoking Biennial.

Participating artists for the TarraWarra Biennial 2014 including: boat-people* (NSW), Daniel Boyd (NSW), Søren Dahlgaard (VIC), Destiny Deacon & Virginia Fraser (VIC), Karla Dickens (NSW), Fiona Foley (QLD), Tony Garifalakis (VIC), Sandra Hill (WA), Gabriella Mangano and Silvana Mangano (VIC), Romaine Moreton (VIC), Nasim Nasr (SA), Polixeni Papapetrou (VIC), Elizabeth Pedler (WA), Sangeeta Sandrasegar (VIC), The Telepathy Project (Veronica Kent and Sean Peoples) (VIC) and The Tjanpi Desert Weavers Project with Fiona Hall (SA/NT/WA).

The Biennale will host a series of public programs and special events to accompany the exhibition. A day of live performances, artists’ talks, curators’ talks and special discussions will coincide with the Melbourne Art Fair and also the Melbourne Festival through a special partnership with each of these organisations.

Whisper in my Mask
16 August to 16 November, 2014
TarraWarra Museum of Art

Image: Nasim Nasr, Erasure, 2010 (still), single channel video, silent, 10:00 min
Courtesy of the artist and Paul Greenaway Gallery, Adelaide

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