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Installation Art | John McDonald

Installation Art

Katharina Grosse

February 2, 2018
Katharina Grosse at Carriageworks

There’s a certain Guinness-Book-of-Records quality about Katharina Grosse’s installation at Carriageworks. On opening night everyone kept asking: “Is this the biggest painting in the world? Is this the biggest painting ever made in Australia?”, and so on. My short answer was: “I don’t know, but I’ve never seen a bigger painting anywhere.” A quick Internet … More


Pipilotti Rist: Sip My Ocean

December 8, 2017
Pipilotti Rist, tripping without drugs

“I will always be grateful to popular culture,” Pipilotti Rist told an interviewer in 2001. As a recent video clip by Beyoncé shows, popular culture should also be grateful to her. Pipilotti Rist: Sip my Ocean, at the Museum of Contemporary Art reveals the many and various ways this remarkable Swiss multi-media artist embraces popular … More


Kader Attia

July 1, 2017
Kader Attia, watching heads from J'Accuse (2016)

If ever an artist were attuned to the temper of our times it is Kader Attia (b.1970). Following a successful showing in Documenta 13 in 2012, this French-Algerian creator of multimedia installations and videos has since become one of the most sought-after artists in the world. The piece that made such a powerful impression was … More


After Utopia

September 5, 2015
IAN WOO, We Have Crossed The Lake, 2009, acrylic on linen, 194 × 244 cm. Courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

Irony has never been a big feature of life in Singapore, but perhaps it’s catching on. Of all nations on the planet, Singapore is arguably the closest thing to a social laboratory, where economic and cultural programs are dreamt up by a paternalistic state and broadly accepted by the population. This centralised control has made … More


Go East: The Gene & Brian Sherman Contemporary Art Collection

July 11, 2015
Zhang Huan, Family Tree, 2000, c-type prints, suite of 9 images, edition 2/3, 227 x 183 cm (framed). Image courtesy: The Gene and Brian Sherman Collection, and Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney. Photo: the artist.

Public galleries have always cultivated good relations with private collectors, but lately those ties have taken on a new importance. This is partly a result of governments wanting to palm off the responsibility for arts funding onto private sources. The logic is perfectly cynical: when spending cuts are required the arts are seen as a … More


White Rabbit: Commune

November 1, 2014
Jiang Jin, 'The Orphan Files', (2004)

In the words of the Chinese philosopher, Mencius, “we survive in adversity and perish in ease and comfort.” This thought may be universally applicable but it is especially relevant to China today, as the horrors of the 20th century recede into the mists. It has been almost 40 years since the end of the Cultural … More


Gwangju, Busan & SeMA Biennale

October 4, 2014
Chiharu Shiota's 'Accumulation Searching for Destination' (Photos courtesy of the Busan Biennale)

In South Korea the word “exhibition” seems to be translated as “biennale”. At the moment the Koreans are hosting at least four biennales, if one includes the Daegu Photography Biennale (until 19 October). Last week I managed to catch the other three, two of which have begun in an atmosphere of high controversy. The most … More


Annette Messager

September 6, 2014
Annette Messager, CHANCE, (2011), black net, wireImage courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris and New York

Annette Messager was born in the French provinces to a family of atheists who took a particular pleasure in the local Catholic church. Her father favoured the architecture, while Annette liked the stained glass windows. This biographical tidbit takes on significance when one considers the nature of Messager’s work, which draws freely on the iconography … More


19th Biennale of Sydney

March 29, 2014
Mircea Cantor, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, 2012 (video still), HD video, 4 mins. Courtesy the artist; Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris; Dvir Gallery, Tel Aviv; and Magazzino, Rome. Sound: Semantron of Putna Monastery.

Biennales thrive on controversy but there is a feeling of unease about this year’s headlines. No-one envisaged artists boycotting the Biennale because the founding sponsor has government contracts to manage detention centres. It was no cause for celebration when Transfield’s Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, one the few dedicated patrons of the arts in corporate Australia, felt obliged … More


Dark Heart: 2014 Adelaide Biennial

March 15, 2014
Alexander Seton, Soloist, 2012. Bianco carrara marble, 95 x 75 x 70cm. Photo: Per Ericson. Courtesy: the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney

Before heading south for this year’s Adelaide Biennial I saw Opera Australia’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Pushkin’s famous character is the archetypal ‘dark heart’. Onegin humiliates the young Tatiana, who has confessed her love for him. He plays a nasty joke on his best friend, and keeps going long after he should have stopped. … More