Monday, 22 March 2021

Triennial NGV, 2021

On the weekend I finally went to visit the Triennial exhibition at NGV.  I wanted to go earlier in the year but it did not seem  safe to be in a gallery where people come from all over town and state and even interstate while Covid was at large.  It was 3 weeks without any community transmission of Covid on the weekend and felt safer.  Even so, I was surprised only about half the visitors seemed to take the NGV's strong advice to wear a mask.  Fortunately the art was worth the wait, though there was so much to see that I wish I had the opportunity to go again.  But I am not sure I have time over the next month before it closes.  Here is a taste of what I saw.

The fun starts as soon as we enter and see the huge mesmerising, constantly changing, spiraling, cascading, falling, fading and growing patterns on "Quantum memories" by Refik Anadol. The Triennial exhibits are dispersed throughout the whole gallery.  It is a lot of walking and even then, we missed some of the exhibits.

"Venus" by Jeff Koons is a play on classical statues using a shimmery shiny metal that no classical sculptor would have thought possible.

I really loved the sequinned tapestry called "House of Heroines" by Lara Schnitger with bumper sticker slogans and empowering words.

This wall of faces is called "Identification (ID) Photo Project" by Kim Sihyun.


Diamond Stingily made "In the middle but in the corner of 176th place" at first glance looks like a huge trophy exhibition of some sports star.  But upon a close read of the trophies, it seems that there is less of the celebration of sport going on.  Inscriptions like "through all the madness this all you gone get" puts sport back into perspective, and were fun to read.

The vibrant blues of Indigenous artist Dhambit Mununggurr in the "Can we all have a happy life"exhibition  are startlingly bright.  I liked this lively painting of Garma: her mother's brother started the Garma festival that brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous people together in the outback up North each year.

"Plastocene – Marine Mutants from a disposable world" by Porky Hefer was made of many odd  imaginary sea creatures" made of detritus that is polluting the sea: cigarette buts, coffee cups, straws etc.  I could not work out what this tentacled creature was made of.  (And the security guard did not have a clue either!)

I thought this creature looked a bit like a covid virus.  The below ones hanging from the ceiling were quite amusing too.

One think I have enjoyed about a Covid world (if that does not sound odd) is mask fashion.  These prints of fax vintage outfits with matching masks  by Scotty So in this "China Masks" were quite beautiful. 

This "Walls 4 Sale: near new and supersized" by BTVV was like walking through Alice's Wonderland.  Doors were either too big or too small.  The toilet and kitchen were definitely too big.  I could see kids loving it but my daughter was too old for some fun and was outside in the garden with her friend.  Meanwhile my dad's arm can be seen in this photo to show some perspective on the huge sliding door.

We almost missed "Fallen Fruit" by David Allen Burns and Austin Young halfway up the ramp between the on the North side.  I was so glad we backtracked to look at it.  This was my favourite part of the Triennial.  I loved the old gilt framed paintings and black statues against the amazing floral wallpaper.

My dad found the lack of details about the artworks frustrating.  He likes labels.  I found this as wonderful as walking into an historic house but all the more interesting because it is in a gallery and impressed up me just how much we strip art of content in a gallery and how much more beautiful the art was with the wonderful wallpaper.  The wallpaper was an artwork in itself with Australian flora and fauna, light and dark, and colours that gradually changed as we walked around the rooms.  I wanted to go home and wallpaper my home!

This large round light show called "Extinctions" by Carnovsky was fascinating.  The colours were bright but also interesting the way they picked up on different designs on the curved wall.  My dad and I stood enthralled by the way the light altered colours on the glassware in the shelves on the other sides of the walls.

"Optical" by Stuart Haygarth was a huge crystal globe and every bit as interesting in how the light reflected on the floor.

Another favourite was the Salon et Lumièr.  Paintings were crowded onto red walls to imitate a Paris Gallery of the Nineteenth Century.  Back then people were excited for the opportunity to see artworks.  In our digital age, we have many opportunities to see artworks but not like this.  This was a light and sound show with the paintings on the wall as the canvas.  Shadows and thunderstorms and tv static and more brought the thrill of art to modern day gallery!

The beauty of Triennial is that it is an immersive experience that cannot be shared by just showing you some photos.  Some of the exhibits were hard to photograph.  Here are a few that I enjoyed without my camera:

  • Alicja Kwade's "WeltenLinie".  This set up of mirrors created an optical illusion where many of the visitors - including me - were quite flummoxed to work out what was mirror and what was real life.  I saw quite a few people reaching out to check if it was a mirror or not.
  • Tomoaki Suzuki's "Biole, Carson, Dasha, Marisa" had lots of statues of tiny people - about 30cm high.  We had a quick look from the corridor but did not have the time or patience to join the long queue of people who were going in to look more closely.
  • Liam Young's Planet City was an imagining of a futuristic city built up rather than sprawling outwards.  The video was quite mesmerising with the slow swooping down past tall building that gave the feeling of floating.

When I checked the website after the exhibition, I saw how much I had missed. I wished I had seen:

  • Faye Toogood - "Downtime: Candlelight wall scenography and Family busts and Roly-poly chair / Water"
  • Kengo Kuma and Geoff Nees - "Botanical pavilion"
  • JR - "Homily to Country"

And then at the end we were back in the forecourt, looking at another part of the Quantum Memories explosion of colour and shapes.

It was really good to get out to an exhibition after over a year of so little live art and culture in my life.  But we were never far from reminders of Covid, especially as we made our way up Swanston Street pas an Anti-Vaxxer march as we headed towards a sushi train lunch.

You can read more about the Exhibition on the NGV Triennial page.  If you are able to go ibefore it closes on 18 April 2021, I would highly recommende it.  entry is free but bookings are essential.  If you have been, I would love to hear what you thought and what was your favourite exhibit. 

You can read about previous NGV exhibitions I have visited:

1 comment:

  1. The big orange octopus was cigarette butts! :)


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