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19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire

17 artists and 39 works at the Art Gallery of NSW

Yingmei Duan Happy Yingmei 2011, performance and sound installation, courtesy the artist, performance produced by Lilith Performance Studio, Malmö, 2011

Embracing the human qualities of the title of the 19th Biennale of Sydney, Artistic Director Juliana Engberg describes the Art Gallery of NSW as ‘the beating heart, and the Promethean fire of this year’s Biennale of Sydney’.

The Biennale of Sydney is Australia’s largest and most exciting contemporary visual arts festival, held every two years across multiple venues in Sydney. The Art Gallery of NSW is a major venue and has been part of the Biennale since 1976.

Taking account of the Gallery’s concurrent contemporary season of exhibitions and the major Afghanistan show, Engberg has selected the work of the 17 artists for the Art Gallery of NSW that focus on the human qualities in the title of the 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire.

Some 39 works by 17 artists will be presented within the Gallery’s major temporary exhibition space. The featured works explore the diversity of human, geo-political and cultural behaviour through narratives, metaphors, fables and collective endeavours. The selected artists have the capacity to think about what is possible in society. They engage these ideas with poetic and transformative changes in their environment.


For the 12 weeks of the Biennale, Chinese-born, German-based performance artist Yingmei Duan will inhabit an indoor forest at the Gallery to perform Happy Yingmei. Duan, who studied under seminal performance artist Marina Abramović in Berlin, will hide at the extremity of this magical space, occasionally creeping forward through the trees to investigate a visitor and perhaps offer them a secret note of instruction or poetic observation. A wonderland discovery for the visitor, the performance for Duan is a durational challenge and a form of self-imposed confinement.

Turkish-born, Swedish-based artist Meriç Algün Ringborg’s The Library of Unborrowed Books consists of all the books from the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts Library that have never been borrowed, brought together by the artist and displayed to form a library of their own where visitors are invited to borrow a book and relax in an adjacent reading room.

Australian artist Bindi Cole’s We All Need Forgiveness is a new 30-monitor video installation with different people repeatedly saying 'I forgive you, I forgive you’. In the context of Cole’s mixed Aboriginal and British ancestry, there is power in this statement. Yet the work also functions more universally to tap into our fundamental human condition by expressing the courage to forgive. The physical presence of a sea of different faces combined with the building mantra of their voices presents an emotionally charged experience.

Notes to editor

19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire presents the work of more than 90 artists from 31 countries and celebrates the power of artistic imagination. The Biennale presents an exploration of the world and contemporary aesthetic experience through the inventions and desires of well-known artists, as well as many exhibiting in Sydney for the first time.

The Biennale of Sydney was the first biennale to be established in the Asia-Pacific region and, alongside the Venice and São Paulo biennales and documenta, is one of the longest running exhibitions of its kind. Since its inception in 1973, the Biennale of Sydney has provided an international platform for innovative and challenging contemporary art, showcasing the work of nearly 1600 artists from over 100 countries.

Today it ranks as one of the leading international festivals of contemporary art and continues to be recognised for presenting the freshest and most provocative art from Australia and around the world.

Key dates
Media preview: Tuesday 18 March 2014
Vernissage: Tuesday 18 March – Thursday 20 March 2014
Public dates: Friday 21 March – Monday 9 June 2014

Media images
Available via the media section of the Biennale of Sydney website
Use the following login details:
user: media guest
password: 2014desire
Please ensure that you use the image credit details as provided on the website.

Biennale of Sydney website

Biennale of Sydney media contacts

On view
21 Mar – 9 Jun 2014
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney


Media contact

Claire Martin
Tel 02 9225 1734
Mob 0414 437 588