Fremantle Biennale launches with Australian premiere of award-winning light installation

On Friday 1 November 2019, the Fremantle Biennale launched the program for its second editionUNDERCURRENT 19. Transforming the port city in Western Australia for 3 weeks (1-24), the Biennale will present work from over 40 international and Australian artists, architects and designers responding to the history, communities and landscape of the unique port city in Western Australia. Large-scale artworks, installations, architectural pavilions, dance and music performances and group exhibitions will be presented in hidden and public sites across the city celebrating Fremantle’s longstanding history and reputation as a creative city on the edge of the Indian Ocean.

Headlining the program is the internationally acclaimed light installation WATERLICHT by social design lab Studio Roosegaarde founded by award-winning Dutch artist and innovator Daan Roosegaarde. Studio Roosegaarde combines art and technology in urban environments to spark discussions around sustainability for the future. Following its premiere in New York and marking the first time the studio has presented this work in the Southern Hemisphere, cascading waves of blue light will be projected in Esplanade Park from 1-3 November, simulating a virtual flood, as a powerful call to action about rising sea levels and the climate change crisis.

On the Australian premiere of WATERLICHT, Daan Roosegaarde said: “Australia as an island nation is witnessing the direct effect climate change is having on the rise of sea levels. Waterlicht addresses this prevalent issue, whilst simultaneously showing the power and poetry of living with water. As a city on the edge of the Indian Ocean, Fremantle is the perfect setting for the Australian premiere.”

On the launch of the program, Founder and Artistic Director of the Fremantle Biennale Tom Mùller said: “It is with great excitement that we begin the countdown to the launch of our largest Biennale program next Friday. Artists from across Australia and the world have been creating work over the past year which will see hidden and iconic spaces across the city reimagined, from the industrial port through to the HMAS Submarine. We look forward to unveiling these artworks to our visitors, and welcoming them into the newly built South Mole Resort, a self proclaimed republic meet art installation with its own spa, tattoo parlour and hotel.”

Highlights for UNDERCURRENT 19 include:

Australian Composer Lawrence English will create a new sound work for the internal volume of the HMAS Ovens Oberon Class submarine at the WA Maritime Museum. Standing Wave is a sound work echoing from within the submerged politics of the cold war; exploring variable pressure, material acoustics and the intensities of resonance (2-24 November, WA Maritime Museum).

A major new commission by WA artist Bennett Miller, Behavioural Ecologies is a series of interventions, installations and live performances that take place across multiple sites throughout Fremantle. The work is conceived of as a ‘roving tableau’ that responds directly and indirectly to the unique formal, topographical and historical qualities of the port city. Unfolding over the month of November, ‘Behavioural Ecologies’ will occupy and leave a trail across the city, beginning at South Beach and its surroundings, passing through the West End and the Port, and ending at the North Mole. Residents and audiences alike are invited to keep an eye out for the movements and markings of this mysterious cohort while they go about their leisure and their work (1-24 November, across Fremantle).

Combining film and commissioned performance, Pearls and Blackbirds by Australian artist and curator Kelsey Ashe Giambazi examines both dark and light undercurrents of Western Australia’s historically significant pearling industry through contemplation of the lives and stories of female Indigenous pearl divers and Japanese migrants who traversed through the port of Fremantle and Northern WA in the late 19th century. Filmed underwater in the seas around Western Australia, this work includes true stories acknowledging instances of human spirit and resilience (2-24 November, WA Maritime Museum).

Somnus, a duration theatrical installation by Theatre of the Sea blurring the boundaries between art and ritual, performers and audience, waking and sleeping states. Incorporating elements of poetry, movement, stage design, sound and site activation, Somnus will take place over a period of three days and is staged as both an experiential work inquiring into the nature of sleep, and as ritualised spectacle, addressing the endangered status of sleep in a world rife with insomnia (8-10 November, PS Art Space).

Japanese artist Kayako Nakashima will intervene with the architectural fabric of the Old Customs House for Sleeping with the Sun. By drawing and manipulating natural light into a dimly lit space, she will reimagine the internal void of the significant building, transforming the space into a sea of sunlight. The viewer is invited to lie on a bed and witness the subtle dance of golden rays converse with the space of the atrium (1-24 November, Old Customs House).

Radar, a new contemporary dance work by Brooke Leeder & Dancers in collaboration with musician Louis Frere-Harvey and lighting designer Nemo Gandossini-Poirier, will merge dancer, light, live music and electronic tracks in a performance exploring the connection between sirens, sound and human movement in response to the nature of the inner port (21-24 November, B-Shed).

Australian Contemporary dance artist Sete Tele and Canadian interdisciplinary artist Lisa Hirmer respond to the precarity of water systems around the world in a new participatory project Drinking Water. The multifaceted work examines the movements of water relative to human life, at the scale of the body, inter-human and human-place relationships, and at the scale of the planet (1-24 November, Moores Building Contemporary Art).

UNIT, a trail of architectural and landscape installations on 13 selected waterfront sites within the Victoria Quay, Bathers Beach and Fishing Boat Harbour at Fremantle’s western edge. The set of 13 sites are located on the ocean side of the original shoreline of this part of the river mouth and form the foundation of the narrative of UNIT. The sites are spaced so as to allow the individual Units to stand alone, but with the next adjacent Unit visible (1-24 November).

Additional programming includes MAKING: a Living?, a symposium exploring the relationship between artists and their supporters (2 November, Tannock Hall Lecture Theatre, University of Notre Dame Australia); Western Current, a survey of work curated by Ron Nyisztor featuring select West Australian realist painters with shared references to the Indian Ocean and a recurring coastal gothic narrative (1-24 November, Fremantle Arts Centre); Ebb & Flow, a sound sculpture expressed collectively by the act of toning performed by Undercurrent Choir, responding to the spatial aspects of PS Art Space and forming a single channel of voices guiding the audience through space by sound alone (15-17 Nov, PS Art Space); The Twist of the Sea, a new three-channel video work by Western Australian artist Penny Coss with a focus on local histories centred around the working Fremantle Port and the lives of the Seafarers (1-24 November, Moores Building Contemporary Art Gallery); Soundmarks evokes the passage of time in a journey along Gage Roads: the deepwater shipping lane that connects the port of Fremantle to outside world. Temporal and spatial dimensions of this liminal zone are explored in a sound installation by husband and wife duo composer, Ryan Burge and visual artist, Jenn Garland (1-24 November, Shipwreck Museum’s Storehouse Gallery); Desire Lines, an audiovisual poem to the disused spaces of Fremantle by acclaimed filmmaker Matt Sav, this film and sculptural work pays homage to what was before, and what might come after (1-24 November, PS Upstairs); Fervor is a unique dining experience where locally sourced native produce forms partnership with local communities, traditional owners and businesses (1-3 November); and Midnight Blue Lagoon a series of Sunday dance parties on the balcony of the Maritime Museum by ClubbMedd (17 and 24 November, WA Maritime Museum).

Joining City of Fremantle, University of Notre Dame Australia, Minderoo Foundation and the Australia Council for the Arts as partners will be Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, Water Corporation WA, Western Australian Museum, University of Western Australia, Murdoch University, Artsource and PS Art Space.

The full program can be viewed here:

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