Ten Thousand Suns
24th Biennale of Sydney
March 9–June 10, 2024
Artists: Adebunmi Gbadebo, Agnieszka Kurant, Agnieszka Polska, Alberto Pitta, Andrew Thomas Huang, Anne Samat, Barrileteros Almas del Viento, Big Chief Demond Melancon, Bonita Ely, Breda Lynch, Candice Lin, Chitra Ganesh, Choy Ka Fai, Christopher Myers, Christopher Pease, Citra Sasmita, Darrell Sibosado, Destiny Deacon, Dhopiya Yunupinju, Diane Burns, Doreen Chapman, Dumb Type, Dylan Mooney, Eisa Jocson, El Gran Mono, Elyas Alavi with Jimmy Hingtons, John Hingtons & Alibaba Awrang, Eric-Paul Riege, Felix de Rooy, Francisco Toledo, Frank Bowling, Frank Moore, Freddy Mamani, Gordon Hookey, Hayv Kahraman, I Gusti Ayu Kadek Murniasih, Idas Losin, Irene Chou, James Eseli, Li Jiun-Yang, Joel Sherwood, John Pule, Josh Kline, Juan Davila, Júlia Côta, Kaylene Whiskey, Kirtika Kain, Köken Ergun, Kubra Khademi, Lawrence Lek, Leila el Rayes, Mangala Bai Marawi, Mariana Castillo Deball, Marie-Claire Messouma Manlanbien, Martin Wong, Maru Yacco, Mauroof Jameel & Hamsha Hussain, Megan Cope, Ming Wong, Monira Al Qadiri, Nádia Taquary, Nikau Hindin, Ebonie Fifita-Laufilitoga-Maka, Hina Puamohala Kneubuhl, Hinatea Colombani, Kesaia Biuvanua, Rongomai Gbric-Hoskins, Niño de Elche & Pedro G. Romero, Orquideas Barrileteras, Özgür Kar, Pacific Sisters, Pauletta Kerinauia, Petrit Halilaj & Alvaro Urbano, Robert Campbell Jnr, Rover Thomas, Sachiko Kazama, Sana Shahmuradova Tanska, Satch Hoyt, Saule Dyussenbina, Segar Passi, Sergey Parajanov, Serwah Attafuah, Simon Soon, Tarryn Gill, Te Whā a Huna, Tracey Moffatt, Trevor Yeung, Udeido Collective, VNS Matrix, Weaver Hawkins, Wendy Hubert, William Strutt, William Yang, Yangamini, among others.
Exhibition locations: White Bay Power Station, Art Gallery of NSW, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), Chau Chak Wing Museum at the University of Sydney, UNSW Galleries, Artspace.
Ten Thousand Suns conveys divergent images. The singular life-giving body that is the sun, like the world it shines light upon, has otherwise been known under thousands of different words in as many languages. Each name carries with it a different cultural viewpoint, many of which do not rely on a vision of a single sun. The image of many suns evokes projections of a scorching world, both in several cosmological visions and in our moment of climate emergency and of a world ablaze. In this vein, the 24th Biennale of Sydney will present many of its artists in a location opened to the public for the first time in more than a hundred years, White Bay Power Station. Located on the lands of the Wangal people at the city’s centre, this gigantic empty shell, where mountains of coal were brought and burnt, is a monument to the absurd effort that has been needed to power the settler colony, and to put in motion both its real and symbolic machinery.
Yet Ten Thousand Suns also conveys the joy of cultural multiplicities affirmed, First Nations understandings of the cosmos brought to the fore, and carnivals as forms of resistance rallying against colonial oppression and dehumanisation. The 24th Biennale of Sydney works within these different layers, acknowledging the deep crises derived from colonial and capitalist exploitation while refusing to concede to an apocalyptic vision of the future. This politics of doom can be seen as attempts by the same forces to render impossible the overcoming of the multiple crises that they themselves have produced. The 24th Biennale of Sydney proposes instead the radiance and warmth of ten thousand suns, illuminating a collective future that is not only possible, but necessary to be lived in irrepressible joy and plenitude, in common humanity.
Around this central theme and ethos, the 24th Biennale of Sydney goes deeper into several connected threads. One of them is the post-1945 history and imagination around the atomic era, as a concentrated version of the far longer carbon era of climate alteration through human exploitation. More than anywhere else on Earth, this history unfolded in the broader Pacific, through the bombs dropped on Japan during the Second World War and the hundreds of tests staged in the subsequent decades, orchestrated by imperial powers on island nations and Indigenous lands, causing displacement, contamination, and ongoing regimes of military control, including at Maralinga, South Australia, from 1952 to 1963.
Another thread follows a lineage of largely repressed or misconstrued moments that have been crucial in the history of Australia and have involved relations with the Muslim world.
Prior to European Invasion, from as early as the 16th century and until being formally banned by the colonial authorities in the early 20th century, First Nations on the northern shores of what is now Australia were involved in complex exchanges with the Muslim merchants of Makassar in today’s Indonesia. This relationship developed based on trading trepang (sea cucumbers) across a commercial network that included Qing China and left lasting cultural and spiritual marks on both sides. The invasion of Central and Western parts of the continent in the 19th century employed camels imported by the colonisers to access and exploit desert regions. Muslim cameleers were brought in from across South and West Asia, whose economic, cultural, and spiritual contributions—having played a role in the development, among others, of Sufism in Australia—has hardly been rewarded. In fact, their naturalisation was later denied under the White Australia immigration policy, that only ended in the 1970s. Just as the first contact with the outside world for some First Nations communities in the north was with the Muslim Makassar traders, the same can be said for several Indigenous communities in the central and western regions with Muslim cameleers—many of them have also joined these communities through marriage. Several artists in the 24th Biennale are descendants of these families. As part of the First World War, in the context of calls by the Ottoman sultan and caliph for rebellions of Muslim subjects in the British and French empires, London orchestrated the ill-fated invasion at Çanakkale/Gallipoli, with large contingencies from Australia and New Zealand. This moment has remained central to processes of historical memory in Australia. These lineages over the centuries have continued throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, including in the role that Islamophobia has played in processes of othering in Australia and in its anti-migration policies.
Drawing upon a rich history of endurance, defiance, reclamation, and defiant joy, the invited artists present a world where passivity is no longer viable, where art is more than gesture.
Biennale of Sydney team: Aishlinn McCarthy, Alicia Hollier, Andrew Dillon, Barbara Moore, Belinda Wincote, Billie Phillips, Catherine Wooley, Charlotte Galleguillos, Cosmin Costinaș, Deborah Jones, Elizabeth Nguyen, Emma Moser, Erica Em, Fredrika Mackenzie, Gotaro Uematsu, Guillermo Lozano Leo, Haneen Martin, Inti Guerrero, Jasmine Stephens, Julia Greenstreet, Kristin Liu, Leigh-Ann Pow, Louise Villar, Matt Woodham, Michael Kennedy, Mikhaela Rodwell, Noah Bennett, Santy Saptari, Sep Pourbozorgi, Talya Aarons, Tim Barker, Tony Albert, Vivian Ziherl, Zali Matthews.
Media preview: March 5
Vernissage (professional preview): March 6–8
Lights On opening night: March 8