Leg of Lamb’s Biennale of Sydney Top 5

Jake and Dinos Chapman, 'Two Faced Cunt', card box, pasteboard, newspaper, 2009

1) Jake and Dinos Chapman’s ‘Shitrospective’ at the MCA consists of rudimentary reconstructions of signature works like ‘Two-faced cunt’ cheekily fabricated in grubby cardboard, which somehow makes the shifty subject matter all the more perverse.

AES+F, still from 'The Feast of Trimalchio', nine-channel video installation, 2009

2) AES+F’s ‘Feast of Trimalchio’ on Cockatoo Island is the crowd-pleaser, and rightly so – it’s an epic multi-channel spectacle in three parts loosely based on ‘Satyricon’ by the Roman poet Petronius.   A sexy, thinly veiled critique of consumerism, beautiful people frolic like extras in a souped-up United Colours of Benetton ad until things start to go bad…

Yvonne Todd, 'Goat Sluice', colour photograph, 2006

3) Yvonne Todd on Cockatoo Island.  The Island’s a great venue, but sometimes makes it difficult for the art to hold its own.  Not so with Yvonne Todd’s selection of photographs.  Housed in a delapidated cottage furnished with grubby wallpaper, the site perfectly compliments Todd’s fabricated cast of christians, satanists and clammy pipes.

Jemima Wyman, detail from 'Combat Drag', photo-collage, 2009

4) Jemima Wyman, ‘Combat Drag’ on Cockatoo Island.  Ignore her video and concentrate on Wyman’s three large photo-collages.  Upon closer inspection, the highly coloured skull and mandala shapes reveal minute figures clad in ‘combat drag’ complete with toothy, sometimes double-eyed balaclavas fashioned out of the classic Ozzie flannel shirt.

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, still from 'The Two Planets Series', video, 2008

5) Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, ‘The Two Planets Series’ at the MCA is a three-channel video work that involves three groups of Thai farmers, each discussing a painting by Van Gogh, Millet or Manet.  Their observations are frank, often amusing and refreshingly unfettered by art world preconceptions.

Honorable mentions:

Roger Ballen‘s problematic photographs of rural South African communities, Paul McCarthy‘s trashy ‘Ship of Fools’ sculpture, Makoto Aida‘s cutesy apocalyptic bunny/phallus painting, Salla Tykka‘s footage of Lipizzaner stallions, Gunnel Wahlstrand‘s exquisite ink-washed renditions of family photographs and Regina Jose Galindo‘s provocative water-boarding re-enactment.

Leg of Lamb’s Biennale of Sydney Top 5

Roger Ballen’s Boarding House

Roger Ballen, 'Euology', 2004 from the series 'Boarding House'

Roger Ballen‘s grubby, nightmarish scenes are not fabricated, they exist in the small towns and homes in South Africa where the artist has lived and worked since the 1970s.  Since then, Ballen has continued to challenge the conventions of documentary photography by fusing social commentary with disquieting, often surreal imagery.

In Boarding House (a series of work currently on display at Stills Gallery, Sydney), one can identify the artist’s active collaboration with his subjects and his abiding interest in composition. He says; ‘The purpose of photography has changed for me. I am no longer an outsider trying to pick up interesting details of a place. Right now, I’m only looking at one place – the interior of my mind. And from that, I step outside.’

Roger Ballen, Boarding House, at Stills Gallery, Sydney, until May 29.  The artist will be delivering a talk at Stills on Saturday May 15 at 2pm.
Photographs by Roger Ballen are also included in the forthcoming 17th Biennale of Sydney from May 12 – August 1.

Roger Ballen’s Boarding House

Looking forward – Paul McCarthy at 2010 BoS

Paul McCarthy, 'Butt Plug', 2007 (installation view, Middelheim Sculpture Museum, Antwerp)

Paul McCarthy is creating a major new installation for the 17th Biennale of Sydney.  Entitled Ship of Fools, Ship Adrift 2, the work will be installed at Pier 2/3 in Walsh Bay, the previous site of Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s captivating 100 speaker installation (and BoS highlight) in 2008.

It seems that rumoured plans to install one of the artist’s giant butt plug sculptures outside the MCA have been shelved.  Instead, McCarthy’s new work will be a contemporary re-telling of the medieval allegory of the Ship of Fools.

The 17th Biennale of Sydney, The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age
, 12 May – 1 August 2010

Looking forward – Paul McCarthy at 2010 BoS