This Easter long weekend presented a perfect opportunity to see the Biennale artworks at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA). Located right next to Circular Quay, the MCA is an impressive building combining elements of the old with the new. It is also a lovely gallery to visit if you are looking for a day on the Harbour and hoping to see the Harbour Bridge/Opera House or explore The Rocks area.
Until June 5, the MCA is displaying a few of the Biennale artworks. I ran through what Biennale is in my last blog post. Whereas Cockatoo Island is the Embassy of the Real, the MCA is the Embassy of Translation. It was difficult to truly understand and appreciate the artworks without a guide. In saying this, the MCA does offer an app, free to download within the museum, that promised to provide more context for the artworks on display. Although the app was easy to use, it did not add anything to our experience. If anything, it repeated a lot of the information already on the artwork labels.
Biennale is located on the entrance level in quite a small room. The works of eleven artists are on display and include paintings, sculptures, and photographs. In total, we spent around 30 minutes walking through the entire exhibition only occasionally stopping to read the labels.
One particular installation that caught my eye is pictured below. The piece is by Dayanita Singh, an artist from New Delhi. It is simple, yet aesthetically pleasing. Without even knowing its meaning or significance, I was drawn to look at all the photographs. According to the artwork label, these photographs are ‘both a catalogue and miniature, traveling exhibition of Museum Bhavan’. Each accordion correlates to one of nine museums (Printing Press Museum, Museum of Photography, Little Ladies Museum, Museum of Machines, Godrej Museum, Museum of Men, Ongoing Museum, Museum of Vitrines and Museum of Furniture). It was great seeing how visitors reacted to and interacted with this piece. After reading the label, more often than not visitors would go through the nine accordions and try to match what photographs came from which museums.
There is another piece by Singh in the museum titled the ‘Suitcase Museum’. It consists of large leather bags that each contain an array of black and white photographs. In my opinion, Singh’s work raises questions of the museum experience and who can visit an exhibition. Personally, what interests me about these themes is how the exact same exhibition in a different location can elicit new meaning. How it is curated, who is visiting the space, etc etc can change the experience and, ultimately, result in an entirely different outcome.
One final word on the artworks. When you first walk into the exhibition room, it is truly a multi-sensory experience. To the left of the entrance is a sculpture/installation of coffee cups floating above piles of coffee beans. The smell of coffee is quite strong. Straight away I felt as though I was a guest to the exhibition being offered some coffee to start my day.
Overall, I would recommend seeing the Biennale artworks at the MCA. It would probably be best to combine this embassy with a couple of the others. This is not because the artworks are disappointing, but, because they will hopefully leave you wanting to see more!