The Story of Plastic – Video Screening

This movie is showing next week online, hosted by the Adelaide Sustainability Centre.

Here’s what the ASC says about the event:

Let’s watch a film together, from home.
Join our ‘The Story of Plastic’ virtual screening and panel discussion.

In these unprecedented times, we’ve found a virtual solution to continue our monthly film nights. Stories and film have a unique ability to bring us together as part of something bigger than ourselves and connect us during perilous times.

The Story of Plastics takes a sweeping look at the human-made crisis of plastic pollution and the worldwide effect it has on the health of our planet and the people who inhabit it.

When: Tues 5 May
Movie: 6:45 pm Adelaide time (7:15pm Sydney time)

Online discussion (via Zoom): 830pm Adelaide time (9pm Sydney time)

Register online: (limited tickets)

A virtual visit to Cockatoo Island…

One month ago, we (alongside about 100 artists and collectives from around the world) launched our new artworks at NIRIN, the 2020 Biennale of Sydney. Then, not 2 weeks later, the exhibition was shut down thanks to COVID19. Perhaps you were one of the lucky ones who managed to get around and see the works? If not, here is a little “virtual tour” of the Plastic-free Biennale Artwork on Cockatoo Island.

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Sisters of Perpetual Plastix

Introducing the Sisters of Perpetual Plastix...

The Plastic-free Biennale team meets each week on Zoom (of course!) to continue our work … Our “junior members”, artists Amber Jones (top left) and Juundaal Strang-Yettica (bottom left) are developing a plug-in performative piece called “The Sisters of Perpetual Plastix”, which involves two nuns called Sister Glitter Nullius (Juundaal) and Sister Ninny Nurdles (Amber) who belong to a religious order locked into a complex love/hate relationship with plastic! Contradiction // hypocrisy // worship, the Sisters are working their way though the metaphor …. Perhaps they can absolve you of your plastic sins… What could go wrong!?! Lots of room for laughs and dress ups… Watch this space… 

A date with Pangolin

Our Zoom meeting with Natalie Saunders from Pangolin – we all begin to “work from home”…

The last fortnight has seen a massive shift in … well, pretty much everything! With the Coronavirus sweeping across the world, Plastic-free Biennale (like everyone else) has had to change tack. We had been planning to spend every Wednesday in our installation at Cockatoo Island as the HQ for our ongoing activities throughout the duration of the Sydney Biennale. But now the entire Biennale – and all galleries everywhere – are shut down. All the “physically visitable artworks” in the Biennale are on ice until further notice, which is maddening because we and so many others put a shed-load of effort into making it happen and the exhibition was only open for a short time!

Despite the shut down there is still momentum on another major part of our project. The Biennale as an organisation wants to transform its resources use and emissions, and it’s never been able to make time for this in an insanely busy schedule. So, following our recent meeting with 4A, we set up a connection with Pangolin Associates, an environmental consultancy in Sydney.

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Biennial Foundation Review

This thoughtful review has been published on the Biennial Foundation website, briefly discussing the Plastic-free Biennale project among other contributions to NIRIN. Thanks to author Michaela Bear.

Michaela writes:

Among the 36 artists and projects displayed on the industrial Island is a space dedicated to resources on the Plastic-Free Biennale, created by socially-engaged artists Lucas Ihlein and Kim Williams. Striving to holistically embody NIRIN’s focus on environmental care, Biennale staff asked the pair to improve sustainable practices on an organizational level by minimizing use of plastic. The project, composed of implemented strategies and events, highlights the need to shift expectations of what Biennales and museums should look like if they are to be environmentally responsible, including rethinking use of exhibition staples such as vinyl and foam core – NIRIN instead features wall text hung from clipboards and nails. It is more important than ever to look after each other and our planet, especially in light of recent Australian bushfires and today’s heightened global unrest. NIRIN poignantly reminds us of art’s power to challenge the ‘normal’ and make us rethink, acknowledge, take action, and come together.

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Towards a plastic-free Biennale

Tracey Clement, and artist and writer for Art Guide Australia, has written this wonderful article about our project.

You can read Tracey’s piece on the Art Guide website over here.

Juundaal Strang-Yettica (Plastic-free Biennale team) and Belle Morgan (Biennale of Sydney) at a microplastics citizen science field trip, Wollongong, October 2019

Towards a plastic-free Biennale – by Tracey Clement. March 25, 2020

Kim Williams and Lucas Ihlein are socially engaged artists. As a practice, socially engaged art has been going on for a while, since the 1960s at least, but it has been growing in popularity and garnering more and more critical attention. If you aren’t familiar with the phrase, Tate Modern offers this handy definition: “Socially engaged practice describes art that is collaborative, often participatory and involves people as the medium or material of the work.” Which is not to say that artists working in this field don’t also make actual stuff. Some of them do.

When I meet with the artists to talk about their latest collaborative project, Plastic-free Biennale, Ihlein, laughing, hands me a white sheet of paper covered in typed bullet points and scrawled notes. “We joke about how as artists what we do is develop Google documents and produce A4 sheets of paper for meetings,” he explains. “It’s one of our mediums!”

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Plastic-free Biennale on Instagram

Over the last few weeks we’ve been busy setting up our installation at Cockatoo Island. Here’s a small selection of snaps!

The image at the centre (“Plastic is the only thing on this planet that will not go extinct”) is from our friends at Adrift Lab, whose powerful work is also on show at Cockatoo Island.

You can follow @plasticfreebiennale at Instagram.

Cultural Leadership in Action

Sahar, Kim, Lucas and Kai at 4a Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney

Great news! Following the recent board meeting, the Biennale has appointed Sahar (Administration & Operations Coordinator) to lead the charge on creating a new Environmental Management Plan. The Biennale is making time available in Sahar’s work day so she can put some effort into this project.

Sahar has never done anything like this before, and she’s very excited about the opportunity – she strongly believes that it needs to be done.

But the first job, it seems, is to define the parameters of the job! How to begin?

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Hessian in Contemporary Art?

This photo is from Belle, Exhibition Coordinator at Sydney Biennale, and Cherie, the Head of Exhibitions, who have been supporting our project.

Here in the boot, Cherie and Belle are transporting some hessian to the Art Gallery of NSW. Belle told us that Brook Andrew (the Artistic Director of the Biennale) has been looking for ways to change materials use in the exhibition, which happens across a bunch of different venues.

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At the Board Meeting

Lucas and Kim (both in red) at the Biennale’s board meeting. The NIRIN 2020 Artistic Director Brook Andrew is on the right.

Sometimes when people ask “So, what kind of art do you do?”, I answer “Oh, mainly I make Google Docs”.

This is a joke of course, but it’s not entirely untrue. Alongside making things out of wood, printmaking, growing crops as artworks, and producing videos and songs, Kim and I do seem to create a plethora of Google Docs. Our projects have many moving parts, and we collaborate with heaps of people. Google Docs might not look very “arty”, but they can help guide a discussion, especially when you’re meeting with Important People with Limited Time.

Case in point – the time had come to meet the Biennale of Sydney’s Board of Directors. After hanging out with the staff semi-regularly for several months, we were ready to get some top-down support. So Belle, our main Biennale contact person, did her magic and booked us a spot at the January Board meeting.

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