Every contemporary art biennale is the result of a process of selection and exclusion. This can be due to financial, social, cultural, political or environmental reasons. This essay presents students with the opportunity to add one further work to the 20th Biennale of Sydney.
WHAT KIND OF ESSAY IS THIS?
This essay asks you to make an argument or a ‘case’. To do this you need to do lots of background research into both the biennale and contemporary art. You need to think about the key concepts that you have noticed in the biennale and the way we have talked about key concepts and themes and keywords in class; and think about other contemporary artworks that might connect to these. The best essays will show a good knowledge of contemporary art, the use of thematic framings of artworks, offer a really fantastic description of the artwork, and make it completely obvious that Stephanie Rosenthal overlooked a key work for one of the Embassies. A great essay will have an introduction (that lays out the case) a series of body paragraphs that describe the biennale embassy and the artwork, that show a familiarity with theoretical writing and thought about contemporary art, and a conclusion that ties everything together.
Choose one contemporary artwork, (dated from between 2000-2015) and make a compelling argument for its inclusion in one of the Embassies of the 20th Biennale of Sydney.
HOW DO I CHOOSE A WORK?
Go to the amazing Wikipedia page of contemporary artists: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_contemporary_artists or look at the Design and Art online database of Australian artists (not all these artists are contemporary): https://www.daao.org.au/
Choose only ONE artwork by an artist. Before you do this do some extra research to check that the artist has been widely written about critically in major art publications – don’t choose anyone obscure, it makes it hard to pull together your research.
If this artist has never been included in an exhibition with any of the other artists in the biennale, does this mean you are onto something? Or does it mean the artist is operating in a different field, and not suitable for the biennale environment? Try to find out other group exhibitions they have shown in. Are they major public galleries? Are they other biennales?
Make sure you can access writing about the work and the artist, and that you can see lots of ‘views’ and images of the work so that you can describe it in detail (as if you are standing in front of it).
The essay should include research into the theoretical and thematic framing of the selected works and the embassy itself, and where necessary, include discussion of other works included in that embassy by Stephanie Rosenthal.
HOW DO I FIND OUT ABOUT THE BIENNALE?
Go to the BOS website, get hold of a copy of the guide and/ or the full catalogue. Look at the keywords used for each embassy. Revisit your chosen embassy again – think about what it might be missing.
WHAT IS A THEORETICAL OR THEMATIC FRAMING?
Each of the Embassies has a set of keywords. Some of these keywords travel to other embassies as well. Together the words begin to form a theoretical framing. These are supported with short curatorial statements that describe the key aim and idea of that Embassy. There are also essays that go with each embassy. (Look at the end of this information guide for a short bibliography of extra reading we recommend for each embassy).
The essay should offer:
• a clear and confident evaluation of the theoretical background to the selected embassy
YOU DO THIS BY: reading about the embassy, visiting the embassy, outlining what the curator says the embassy does, evaluating some of the artworks that are already in the embassy, reading the bibliography associated with that embassy, defining all the keywords for that embassy.
• a balanced presentation of reasons why this work should be included
YOU DO THIS BY: describing the artwork really well, highlighting the key themes that it adds to the embassy, connecting it to existing themes, thinking about how it might sit in the space, describing how it sits alongside other works.
• a detailed description of the chosen artwork based on technique, content, style and context
YOU DO THIS BY: working through every step on the formal analysis guide, going back to your material description, writing a short ekphrasis to trigger your own thoughts, combining ekphrasis with a material description and extending this out to context.
• a clear presentation of the student’s own evidence and argument, leading to their own conclusion.
YOU DO THIS BY: arguing from your own perspective and backing it up with lots of solid theoretical research; documenting the key elements of the work and the embassy again and show that it is a meaningful inclusion. Show you know something special and important about the work, the reason why it was missed out. Finish by being confident in your voice and clear and eloquent in your presentation.
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