We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of New South Wales stands.

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23rd Biennale of Sydney rīvus

Bark canoes, boomerangs and other wooden objects in front of a black-and-white artwork featuring large hands.

Installation view of works by Badger Bates, Senior Craftsman Rex Greeno and son Dean Greeno, and John Kelly and Rena Shein, rīvus, 23rd Biennale of Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales © the artists

A major international contemporary art event

23rd Biennale of Sydney rīvus

12 March – 13 June 2022

Vestibule

John Kaldor Family Hall

Grand Courts

Art Gallery of NSW

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Rivers, wetlands and other salt and freshwater ecosystems feature in the 23rd Biennale of Sydney (2022), titled rīvus, as dynamic living systems with varying degrees of political agency. Rivers are the sediment of culture. They are givers of life, routes of communication and places of ritual, but also sewers and mass graves. They are witnesses and archives, our memory. They have also been co-opted as natural avenues for the colonial enterprise, becoming sites of violent conflict driven by greed, exploitation and the thirst to possess. Indeed, the Latin root rīvus, meaning a brook or stream, is also at the origin of the word ‘rivalry’. 

Indigenous knowledges have long understood non-human entities as living ancestral beings with a right to life that must be protected. But only recently have animals, plants, mountains and bodies of water been granted legal personhood. If we could recognise them as individual beings, what might they say?

rīvus proposes a contemplative, conceptual wetland at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The participants offer visions of rewilding and caring for Country in the entrance court and the vestibule, and in a quiet space in the Grand Courts amid the works of 19th- and early 20th-century Australian artists.

Anchored in ancestral technologies and critical Indigenous knowledges, the works in rīvus present an urgent call for the regeneration of and greater connection to Country, and the need to recalibrate and reassess our environmental impact. This wetland connects participants whose practices are underpinned by tireless and enduring activism, community leadership and custodianship. Active community participation plays an integral role in the creation of these works and in the rewilding of both virtual and real ecosystems.

The curatorium

José Roca, artistic director, 23rd Biennale of Sydney
with Paschal Daantos Berry, Anna Davis, Hannah Donnelly and Talia Linz

Participants at the Art Gallery of NSW

  • Ackroyd & Harvey

  • Badger Bates

  • Baaka river

  • Senior Craftsman Rex Greeno and son Dean Greeno

  • Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe

  • John Kelly and Rena Shein

  • Naziha Mestaoui

  • Mike Parr

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is one of several venues.

A large panel with an image in tones of green of a standing person in a dress.

Installation view of Ackroyd & Harvey Lille Madden / Tar-Ra (Dawes Point), Gadigal land, Sydney 2022 © the artists

A person stands with their arms outstretched in front of them, facing a large screen with a green-and-white image of a tree.

Installation view of Naziha Mestaoui One beat, one tree 2012, courtesy and © the artist’s estate

An easel holds an image of a person wearing a hat and checked shirt. There is text across the bottom of the image.

Installation view of Baaka/Darling River Voice of the Baaka 2022

A large black-and-white print forms a background on a gallery wall on which framed artworks are hung.

Installation view of works by Badger Bates

A delicate illustration of a form of palm tree.

Sheroanawe Hakihiiwe Waimasi 2020, Art Gallery of New South Wales © the artist. Photo: Ricardo Gómez-Pérez