Fremantle Biennale returns with Crossing 2 | City of Fremantle

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20 September 2021
Fremantle Biennale returns with Crossing 2

The countdown is on for the third edition of Fremantle Biennale.

Running from 5–21 November 2021, the Fremantle Biennale is a biennial festival showcasing site-responsive contemporary art from established and emerging artists.

The renowned festival that brought you the yellow optical illusion artwork in the West End and cascading waves of blue light projected across the Esplanade is back with another incredible, largely-free program that celebrates Freo’s cultural, social and historical distinctiveness.

This year’s Fremantle Biennale—CROSSING 21—will invite audiences to the shores of the Swan River, with a focus of activity taking place between the two iconic Fremantle bridges.

For the first time, the festival will also see its headline work Moombaki presented in neighbouring councils Melville and Cockburn.

We spoke to three different artists participating in this year’s Fremantle Biennale about their artworks and what audiences can look forward to.


Moombaki: Ilona McGuire & Elders 

Artist impression of a drone light show in the sky.

The Fremantle Biennale is celebrating the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River) with its headliner Moombaki (where the river meets the sky).

This unique work is a Nyoongar storytelling project with a choreographed drone light show for three different sites along the river.

Presented as a series of connected stories or chapters, these brief shows will take place between the Bridges in Fremantle, Attadale Reserve in Attadale and Coogee Beach in Coogee.

The choreography will consist of a fleet of 150 drones equipped with LED lights programmed to reveal and highlight the waterway as a living and significant place deeply connected to the Whadjuk Nyoongar people.

This unique sky show pioneers cutting-edge technology in Western Australia for the first time. The concept development has been led by a group of Nyoongar Elders and emerging artist Ilona McGuire (pictured left on facing page) in consultation with the Biennale Artistic Team.

“My role as the artist is to create the visualisations of our Whadjuk Nyoongar stories chosen in consultation with the Elders,” Ilona said.

“The drawings and soundscapes I have created to tell these beautiful stories will immerse the audience into the Nyitting (dreaming) of the Derbarl Yerrigan.

“I believe viewers will find a new connection with the Derbarl Yerrigan and the areas they live on Whadjuk Nyoongar Boodja as they connect with these ancient stories.

“People need to know that these stories and the characters in them are still here and their presence can be felt when we stop, breathe and listen to our surroundings.”

Ilona is a Whadjuk, Ballardong, Yuat and Kungarakan woman who wholeheartedly creates arts to inform, educate and empower people. “It is an essential part of the way we preserve and understand our culture,” she said.

“I am most looking forward to the representation of our Mob, truth telling, sharing and connecting with audiences across Perth to create a more unified community.”

From her very first meeting with the Biennale team, Ilona said she was enlightened with passion and excitement about this cutting-edge project.

“It’s been an eye opening and electrifying experience so far which can only mean the actual show is going to be spectacular,” she said.

“The array of artists and people involved in the works this year will have such an awe-inspiring effect on all.”

Moombaki has been guided and endorsed by Whadjuk Nyoongar Traditional Owners Doris Getta, Marion Kickett, Karen Jacobs, Glenys Yarren, Neville Collard, Stan Headland, Farley Garlett, Walter McGuire and Brendan Moore.

It is proudly supported by the Minderoo Foundation, Global Unmanned Systems, the Australian Government through the RISE Fund and the cities of Fremantle and Melville.

5–7 Nov | 7.30pm | Between the bridges, Fremantle 12–14 Nov | 7.30pm | Attadale Reserve, Attadale 19–20 Nov | 7.30pm | Coogee Beach, Coogee Free


Overload: Andrew Sunley Smith 

A boat with rocks on it

Overload is a large-scale project where artist Andrew Sunley Smith will deliberately sink a 9.5m, 5 tonne commercial boat by overloading it with rocks.

An incredible project guaranteed to stop anyone in their tracks when they see it for the first time.

Andrew said the excessively loaded vessel was both a poignant and a necessarily absurd, yet common, everyday gesture.

“It puts form to the outcomes of our continual excess,” he said.

“The work is an intentionally disastrous action. It is also a post-colonial gesture; as we witness the revenge of land.

“Sinking the vessel via direct use of the landscape itself, with local limestone rock spall, is a key symbolic element here; one that suggests and demonstrates the land taking back, stopping and forcibly submerging a modernist industrial form.

“The gesture of overloading is an excessive act—one of mal-intent, greed, insensitivity and conscious oppression.

“Unavoidably now, the project is also sadly analogous to the fatal overloading realities of contemporary international refugee plights.”

Andrew encouraged everyone to check out the innovative and thought-provoking contemporary art on offer at this year’s Biennale.

“Every iteration of the Fremantle Biennale becomes more bold, more challenging, more interesting and more entertaining for everybody.

It’s so vital and resonant,” he said. “It’s one of the few times you get to see really interesting, ambitious scale projects in WA outside of conventional spaces.

I love that it’s public and accessible to everybody.”

5–21 Nov (Thurs–Sun) | 10am–6pm Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River), J Dolan Park, East Fremantle | Free


Toughness times tightness: Bruno Booth

Artist Bruno Booth in a wheelchair

Bruno Booth (pictured above) is the Fremantle artist behind the exciting, participatory and huge installation Toughness Times Tightness.

The Biennale team guarantee it’s going to have a real ‘X marks the spot’ kind of impact between the bridges, and will be an intriguing, engaging and enlightening experience for the community.

Bruno works across the mediums of painting, social engagement, sculpture, video and installation. His works are inspired by the navigational challenges that he faces as a wheelchair user and the under-representation of people with disabilities in popular culture.

“I’ve travelled a lot and been in the arts in one way or another for most of my adult life and I rarely ever meet someone who looks like me,” Bruno said.

“It took me ages to examine this and to start questioning what was really going on. Do disabled people make crap art? Are there not that many people with a disability?

The fact is 20 per cent of Aussies have a disability (nearly 4 million people) yet only 9 per cent of visual artists identify as having a disability so where is that other 11 per cent?”

Toughness Times Tightness can be described as an immersive installation constructed from two long, narrowing corridors.

Participants will be invited to wheel themselves down the two corridors in manual wheelchairs provided by Bruno. “The work is inspired by me, as a wheelchair user, trying to fit through tight spaces in shops and public buildings that haven’t been designed or laid out with someone like me in mind,” Bruno said.

“It’s also a bit of a reference to all the behind the scenes routes that people with different access needs are forced to take into our public buildings—I’ve seen the dirty underbelly of a lot of museums and galleries.”

5–21 Nov (Thurs–Sun) | 10am–6pm North Worrall Park, Fremantle | Free

Visit Fremantle Biennale for the full program.

This article was originally published in the 2021 Spring edition of FRE-OH! magazine. Click here to read the article on pages 10–11.