The Biennale (Bee-ah-nah-lee) of Sydney is upon us! Don’t be deterred by the title, which adults and children alike struggle to pronounce. Many of the Biennale venues are a perfect family playground, sporting interactive and colourful activities for the taking and the grabbing.
The Biennale spans five venues: The Art Gallery of NSW, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cockatoo Island, Carriageworks and Artspace. With kids or strollers in tow, it’s best to treat these as separate exhibitions and dedicate one day to each venue.
Cockatoo Island is a short ferry ride away which in itself makes for a fun day out. Once there, alternate between artworks hidden in tunnels, the old turbine hall and hotdogs on the grassy waterfront. Pick up a free Kids Activity Trail from the information counter and you’re ready to explore. The Kids Activity Trail maps out a path through the major artworks and offers lots of stimulating activities along the way – including inventing a dance routine inspired by Marko Lulic’s comical video of outrageous onesie-clad dancers.
Toddlers and babies have been spotted rolling around on the cushions, soothed into womb-like tranquillity by this immersive environment.
Some star attractions for little gallerists include Randi & Katrine’s ‘fairytale’ city of houses complete with smoking chimneys; riding the Google train through an eerie tunnel (more suited for tweens with no fear of the dark and a desperation to meet the Googlebot); and of course Steiner & Lenzlinger’s Bush Power with refitted gym equipment/machines that trigger a system of pulleys and whimsical devices, flooding fountains with fluoro pink paint, shooting coloured feathers into the air, banging gongs and tambourines. Hours of fun for all ages!
At the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), highlights include Jim Lambie’s Zobop where the floor of an entire gallery room has been covered in bright lines of vinyl tape. We found ourselves playing a game of ‘follow the coloured tape road’. Or lie down and be surrounded by Pipilotti Rist’s mesmerising video work, which projects sensory cinematic images of flowers, rippling water and other hyper-macro scenes of nature from floor to ceiling over three huge surrounding walls. Toddlers and babies have been spotted rolling around on the cushions, soothed into womb-like tranquillity by this immersive environment. If the adults need a caffeine hit, the level 4 café is a pram-friendly haven with unparalleled views of Sydney Harbour.
This is the first time Carriageworks has been used as an exhibition venue for the Biennale. A highly-regarded hub for contemporary art in Sydney where wide spaces lend to little ones racing back and forth, the inclusion of this unique industrial gallery into the mix is a new boon. Let the imagination run wild and play ‘I spy’ with Anna Touri’s paintings, reminiscent of spotting animal shapes in cloud patterns. Or watch Mastering Bambi featuring recreated scenes of the enchanting forest setting of Disney’s Bambi film (albeit with our beloved cartoon deer removed).
With five days’ worth of family outings across five different and exciting locations, followed by five evening’s worth of exhausted children sleeping straight through the night, what more can you ask for?
And it’s all free of charge.
Check the Biennale website for more information including opening hours and access, special events and program.