Karla Dickens

A Dickensian Circus

By Biennale of Sydney

22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN

Karla Dickens, 'A Dickensian Circus' | 22nd Biennale of Sydney | NIRIN (2020) by Karla DickensBiennale of Sydney

A Dickensian Circus Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

About the artist

Karla Dickens
Wiradjuri woman
Born 1967 in Sydney, Australia
Lives and works in Goonellabah, Australia


“I aim to reclaim this venerable antechamber using rusty, bent and gnarly sculptures which divulge the hidden stories of marginalised people rarely seen in such a grandiose and majestic setting.”

- Karla Dickens


A Dickensian Circus Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

A Dickensian Circuis

With its dramatic and immersive collection of objects, Karla Dickens’ installation A Dickensian Circus interweaves histories and narratives of Indigenous people involved in circus shows and tent-boxing troupes from the 1920s to the 1950s. 

A Dickensian Circus Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

The works here remind us that these histories link to contemporary stories of pride, womanhood, racism, incarceration, dispossession, resistance and defiance.

A Dickensian Circus Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

Within the domed space of the Art Gallery of New South Wales vestibule, stories spin-out across a heady array of materials from a kind of historical churn – material stories told with a distinctly circular motion that both transforms and transgresses the space, evoking the charged context of the circus and its complicated historical legacy of entertainment and spectacle, agency and entrapment.

A Dickensian Circus Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

"With its ‘classical’ style and pretensions, the Art Gallery of New South Wales vestibule is a perfect post-colonial backdrop for my new offering A Dickensian Circus. Built in 1901–02 from Sydney sandstone, with glass domes above and mosaic tiles below, I aim to reclaim this venerable antechamber using rusty, bent and gnarly sculptures which divulge the hidden stories of marginalised people rarely seen in such a grandiose and majestic setting." 

- Karla Dickens

A Dickensian Circus Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

The driving force behind Karla Dicken’s need to communicate is her cross-cultural heritage, within which she often focuses on her Indigenous (Wiradjuri) bloodline, sexuality and life experiences as a soulful connected woman.

A Dickensian Circus Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

She uses recycled everyday items to explore notions of persistence amidst inherent violence and misunderstanding.

Made with uncommon rawness and daring, her meticulously fabricated works emanate a rare truthfulness and honesty.

A Dickensian Circus Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

Edgy and hard to confine, Dickens often cannibalises existing works to create new ones. She presents a wide-ranging and unique interpretation of the world, where past and present collide in a multi-dimensional kaleidoscope of her own making.

A Dickensian Circus Installation Image, From the collection of: Biennale of Sydney
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A Dickensian Circus Installation Image, From the collection of: Biennale of Sydney
,
A Dickensian Circus Installation Image, From the collection of: Biennale of Sydney
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Navigate through the Art Gallery of NSW vestibule and explore the installation A Dickensian Circus.

A Dickensian Circus Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

To explore more of Karla Dickens work, watch the additional videos: Fridays with Brook and NIRIN Social Tour at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Credits: Story

A Dickensian Circus, 2020  
mixed media installation
Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts, Copyright Agency's Cultural Fund, Create NSW and Justine and Damian Roche 
Courtesy the artist and Andrew Baker Art Dealer, Brisbane 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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