Rivers, wetlands and other salt and freshwater ecosystems feature in the 23rd Biennale of Sydney (2022), titled rīvus, as dynamic living systems with varying degrees of political agency. Rivers are the sediment of culture. They are givers of life, routes of communication and places of ritual, but also sewers and mass graves. They are witnesses and archives, our memory. They have also been co-opted as natural avenues for the colonial enterprise, becoming sites of violent conflict driven by greed, exploitation and the thirst to possess. Indeed, the Latin root rīvus, meaning a brook or stream, is also at the origin of the word rivalry.
Indigenous knowledges have long understood non-human entities as living ancestral beings with a right to life that must be protected. But only recently have animals, plants, mountains and bodies of water been granted legal personhood. If we could recognise them as individual beings, what might they say?
rīvus, presented at NAS in partnership with Artspace, is imagined as a subterranean river once buried that now resurfaces. Across three buildings participants explore displacement, erasure, impeded flows and stagnant waters. They guide us through submarine universes, both real and imagined. Language, song and storytelling are used to connect to the spirits of the land and waters. Marks made by the body call forth watery beings from the past and the future. On this fraught site, the deep well of history can no longer be contained and the desire for healing and reclamation are brought to the fore.
Participants: Jumana Emil Abboud (Palestine/England), Dineo Seshee Bopape (South Africa), Boral River (Bangladesh), Carolina Caycedo (Colombia/USA), Erin Coates (Australia), Cian Dayrit (Philippines), Jessie French (Australia), Joey Holder (England), Pushpa Kumari (India), Latent Community (Albania/Greece), Martuwarra River (Australia), National Committee of the Friends of Myall Creek Memorial and local First Nations Communities (on Gamilaroi/Gamilarray/Gomeroi Country, Australia), Wura-Natasha Ogunji (Nigeria/USA), Duke Riley (USA), Teho Ropeyarn (Angkamuthi/Yadhaykana, Australia)
23rd Biennale of Sydney Curatorium: José Roca, Artistic Director; Paschal Daantos Berry (Head of Learning and Participation, Art Gallery of New South Wales); Anna Davis (Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia); Hannah Donnelly (Producer, First Nations Programs, Information + Cultural Exchange) and Talia Linz (Curator, Artspace)
The National Art School is one of several venues.
See Biennale of Sydney website for more details.
12 March – 13 June 2022
NAS Gallery, The Drawing Gallery, Chapel
Monday to Sunday, 10am–5pm
Extended hours on Thursdays 6–10pm
Good Friday 15 April : CLOSED
Easter Saturday 16 April : 10am–5pm
Easter Sunday 17 April: CLOSED
Easter Monday 18 April: 10am–5pm
Anzac Day Monday 25 April: 12–5pm
Queen’s Birthday Monday 13 June: 10am–5pm (final day)
Photo: Ema Edosio
Meet at NAS Gallery
Friday 10 June, 3.00pm
As part of rivus, 23rd Biennale of Sydney, Nigerian-American artist Wura-Natasha Ogunji is staging her public endurance performance Will I still carry water when I am a dead woman?
First performed in Lagos, Nigeria in 2011, the piece explores the relationship between physical labour, presence, poetry and social change. As with much of her performance art, Ogunji is particularly interested in engaging questions of public space, power and politics. With this performance Ogunji asks: What is the significance of enacting physical labour as a philosophy of transformation, rather than a demonstration of struggle? What is the place of poetry, presence and beauty within this dialogue?
Join the performers as they trace a route from the National Art School to the Art Gallery of NSW, starting at 3pm outside the National Art School Gallery on Friday 10 June.
Wura-Natasha Ogunji. Photo: Andrew Esiebo
Thursday 9 June, 6.30pm
“The watery expanse between Africa and the Americas forever defines my aesthetic landscape. It is one of history, memory, separation and loss.”
Wura-Natasha Ogunji is a visual and performance artist based in Lagos, Nigeria. Her visual art practice includes creating works on paper using hand stitched Iines in thread, graphite and ink, as well as videos and public performances. Water, and particularly the Atlantic Ocean with its history as a passage for slave trading between Africa and the Americas, influence her works in both concept and composition: ‘I often think about what’s happening below the water, the depth, what’s under and what’s carried and balance – what’s happening on either side of the sea.’ Join us for this unique opportunity to hear Wura-Natasha Ogunji in conversation with Talia Linz, curator at Artspace and curatorium member for the 23rd Biennale of Sydney.
For more information about Wura-Natasha Ogunji, visit the Biennale of Sydney website.
Carol McGregor with Adele Chapman-Burgess, Avril Chapman and the Community of the Myall Creek Gathering Cloak, ‘Myall Creek Gathering Cloak’, 2018 (detail). Courtesy the New England Regional Art Museum and the Myall Creek Gathering Cloak Community. Photo: Document Photography
Carol McGregor, Adele Chapman Burgess, Jolea Isaacs and Ivan Roberts OAM in conversation with Hannah Donnelly and Keith Munro.
Saturday 30 April, 10–11am
On 10 June 1838, 28 Aboriginal women, children and older men were murdered in an unprovoked and premeditated massacre known as the Myall Creek Massacre. In an all-too-rare act of grassroots advocacy for truth-telling and memorialisation, the local Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community in regional NSW have come together in response to this tragic historical event. The National Committee of the Friends of Myall Creek have worked over 20 years to establish the Myall Creek Memorial site, organising a one-of-a-kind annual commemoration weekend for the public and an ongoing program of learning, sharing and truth-telling. Both the Massacre and Memorial site are State (NSW) and National Heritage Listed places.
Undertaken as part of the 180th Anniversary of the Myall Creek Massacre, and facilitated by Wathaurung artist Carol McGregor, the Myall Creek Gathering Cloak embeds the stories of the local community and the National Committee of the Friends of Myall Creek including its Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members.
Hear from participants who worked on the Myall Creek Gathering Cloak, which is currently on view at the National Art School as part of the Biennale of Sydney, presented in partnership with Artspace.
This event will be followed by a truth-telling session at the Arts and Cultural Exchange in Parramatta, more information here.
For more information about the Myall Creek Gathering Cloak visit the Biennale of Sydney website.
With Uncle John Kelly and Rena Shein
Rayner Hoff Project Space, National Art School
Free, bookings required.
Families are invited to participate in a ceramic workshop that encourages communal art-making while listening to the First Nations’ King of the Birds story, connected to Dunghutti Country. You’ll replicate clay forms that echo bird nests and eggs, inspired by the ongoing artwork Nyanghan Nyinda Me You by Uncle John Kelly and Rena Shein, who are facilitating the workshop.
Nyanghan Nyinda Me You is on display at the Art Gallery of NSW as part of the 23rd Biennale of Sydney.
Thursday 14 April 2022, 10am–12pm
Thursday 14 April 2022, 12.30–2.30pm
Space In Between is a series of self-guided walks and site-specific exercises created by rīvus participants and extended national and international thinkers, researchers and makers.
Let us walk. Together. Alone. Quietly. Consciously.
Let us turn our gaze – inward, outward.
Let us pay attention to place. To the natural and built world that surrounds us, hugs us, nourishes us.
Space In Between connects the 23rd Biennale of Sydney locations from National Art School, Museum of Contemporary Art, Pier 2/3 at Walsh Bay Arts Precinct and The Cutaway at Barangaroo, through mindful walking. The paths, like the river, flow both ways; there’s no beginning or end – you can move in both directions and start or finish wherever you like.
This walks series is inclusive and fully accessible for wheelchair users and users of other mobility devices.
As you view the exhibition, walking from point to point, take note of your journeys and soak in the creative potential embedded in the natural and urban environments through unearthing stories of place, both visible and hidden. Along the way visit unexpected locations like the Tank Stream, where place-responsive activations will shift your perspective (up, down, around), and experience the City as new, despite the time spent previously (or not) deep within her belly.
Join us for a walk like no other. Guided: Space In Between is an opportunity to walk together between exhibition locations.
Led by a rīvus educator, you will engage directly with newly commissioned exercises and place-responsive activations created exclusively for the 23rd Biennale of Sydney.
Space In Between connects the 23rd Biennale of Sydney locations from National Art School, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Pier 2/3 at Walsh Bay Arts Precinct and The Cutaway at Barangaroo, through mindful walking. The paths, like the river, flow both ways; there’s no beginning or end you can move in both directions and start or finish wherever you like.
Space In Between includes contributions by the following participants. You will engage with these contributions through Guided: Space In Between.
The program is inclusive and fully accessible for wheelchair users and users of other mobility devices.
Dates & Times
Opening Weekend – 12 & 13 March 2022
Mid weekend – 23 & 24 April 2022
Closing weekend – 11, 12 & 13 June 2022
11.45 am: Starting at The Cutaway at Barangaroo and ending at MCA
11.45 am: Cutaway – Pier 2/3
12.15 pm: Pier 2/3 – MCA
The Cutaway at Barangaroo
National Art School
Free, registrations required.
The Biennale of Sydney strives to make all events accessible. You can advise us of your access requirements when booking online, by email or calling our box office on 02 8484 8702.
Box Office Opening Hours
Monday – Friday
9 am–4 pm
02 8484 8702
Email – [email protected]