Brook Andrew

An introduction to NIRIN, told through the words of the Artistic Director and images from the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020)

By Biennale of Sydney

22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN

NIRIN Artistic Director and ArtistsBiennale of Sydney

"One of the most important things NIRIN is doing, by turning what a Biennale can be on its head, is challenging the legacy of a Eurocentric view of art and practice. The 22nd Biennale of Sydney approach is very much about collaboration and many different communities have come together to create these spaces. NIRIN is a platform where diverse and often marginalised voices of the world converge and discuss issues that resonate today."

- Brook Andrew

Shadow on the Land, an excavation and bush burial Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

An introduction to NIRIN

"The 22nd Biennale of Sydney, titled NIRIN, is an expansive international exhibition reaching across Sydney, accompanied by a public program, titled NIRIN WIR. 

Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn) Kulilaya munu nintiriwa (Listen and learn) (2020) by Kunmanara Mumu Mike Williams, Tuppy Ngintja Goodwin, Sammy Dodd and the artists of Mimili Maku ArtsBiennale of Sydney

NIRIN (meaning ‘edge’) and NIRIN WIR (meaning ‘edge of the sky’) are Wiradjuri words. First Nations languages are used throughout the Biennale to highlight the urgency of reviving and sustaining the future of language diversity.

A Dickensian Circus Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

NIRIN brings seeming opposites together, like the everyday experience of throw-away contradictions and changing emotions colliding to reveal hidden histories, or self-representation that may both confront and empower something unimaginable. 

Healing Land, Remembering Country Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

In urgent times of shifting boundaries and conflicts between humanity, nature and spirituality, we desperately need to alter our actions to catch up with expedient change and show respect for ancient cultures. Now is a potent time to heal and feel the rush and tension of new futuristic possibilities.

Bow Echo Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

NIRIN proposes that creativity is an important means of truth-telling, of directly addressing unresolved anxieties that stalk our times and ourselves.  

Faces and Phases Selection Installation ImageBiennale of Sydney

Most importantly, NIRIN is a place from which to see the world through different eyes, to embrace our many edges and imagine pride in ecologically harmonious and self-defined futures. It provides an opportunity to explore both ancient ties and new kinships borne of sensitivity, desire and multiplicity." 

Watami Manikay (Song of the Winds) Watami Manikay (Song of the Winds) (2020) by The Mulka ProjectBiennale of Sydney

The following text is an excerpt from Artistic Director Brook Andrew's entry in the 22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN catalogue.

A Grain of Wheat A Grain of Wheat (2015/2018) by Ibrahim MahamaBiennale of Sydney

Brook Andrew

Artistic Director
22nd Biennale of Sydney


Associate Researcher, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, UK; DPhil candidate, Ruskin School of Art, Oxford, UK; Associate Professor, MADA, Monash University; Honorary Senior Fellow, Indigenous Studies Unit and the School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne; Enterprise Professor in Interdisciplinary Practice, Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, University of Melbourne.

NIRIN Artistic Director and ArtistsBiennale of Sydney

"I have been humbled and inspired by the dedication and strength of all artists that have shared their stories, lives and spirits to present at NIRIN, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney. Ngajuu ngaay nginduugirr (I see you) all and I wish you all happiness and strength.  

Machiluwvn / Iniciación / Initiation Machiluwvn / Iniciación / Initiation (2020) by Elicura Chihuailaf NahuelpánBiennale of Sydney

When I was first invited to consider being Artistic Director of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney, as an artist all I could think was 'yes! I want an artist-led, First Nations-led storm.' To support artists and creatives today, at a time when their voices need to be loud and visible – to support their vision, to drive their voice and to bring along their communities and ideas.   

Sabado Gigante (Gigantic Saturday) Sabado Gigante (Gigantic Saturday) (2020) by Fátima Rodrigo GonzalesBiennale of Sydney

I wanted to break what a traditional biennale is, its colonial legacy and northern hemisphere trajectory of what art is supposed to be; I wanted to bring it to its knees. To join artists and creatives in different ways than usually ‘produced’ … I started in Haiti and went out from there. I was influenced by the people I met, I followed their leads, I met people they wanted me to meet and this mapped my journey.

Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li (Our Ancestors Are Always Watching) Ngiyaningy Maran Yaliwaunga Ngaara-li (Our Ancestors Are Always Watching) (2020) by Barbara McGrady (with John Janson-Moore)Biennale of Sydney

First Nations languages are used throughout the Biennale to highlight the urgency of reviving and sustaining the future of language diversity. NIRIN, meaning ‘edge’ in my mother’s Wiradjuri tongue, is inspired by these themes: 

DHAAGUN EarthSovereignty and Working Together 
BAGARAY-BANG Healing 
YIRAWY–DHURAY Yam-Connection: Food
GURRAY Transformation 
MURIGUWAL GIILAND Different Stories 
NGAWAAL-GUYUNGAN Powerful-Ideas: The Power of Objects 
BILA River: Environment 

Aproximación al lugar de los hechos (Approximations to the Scenes of the Facts) Aproximación al lugar de los hechos (Approximations to the Scenes of the Facts) (2020) by Teresa MargollesBiennale of Sydney

NIRIN proposes that creativity is an important means of truth-telling, of directly addressing the unresolved anxieties that stalk our times and ourselves. Most importantly, it is a place from which to see the world through different eyes, to embrace our many Edges and imagine pride in ecologically harmonious and self-defined futures, and to explore both ancient ties and new kinships borne of sensitivity, desire and multiplicity.

NIRIN HaivetaBiennale of Sydney

NIRIN is accompanied by an expansive public program titled NIRIN WIR, meaning 'sky + edge'. It is a deep immersion in the themes of NIRIN, a program led by Paschal Daantos Berry’s team at the Biennale of Sydney that proposes an alternative cartography of Sydney and the world, highlighting a city of villages and centring the important and transformative works of communities and artists relegated to the so-called edge.    

Black Lives Matter, Martin Place Black Lives Matter, Martin Place (2015) by Barbara McGradyBiennale of Sydney

NIRIN brings seeming opposites together; like the everyday experience of throw-away contradictions and changing emotions colliding to reveal hidden histories, or self-representation that may both confront and empower something unimaginable. In urgent times of shifting boundaries and conflicts between humanity, nature and spirituality, we desperately need to alter our actions to catch up with expedient change and show respect for ancient cultures. Now is a potent time to heal and feel the rush and tension of new futuristic possibilities."

NIRIN Podcast Series: Namila Benson | Behind the Biennale | In Conversation with Brooke Andrew (2020)Biennale of Sydney

Listen to the podcast

In this podcast with Namila Benson, Brook Andrew explores ideas of community, creativity, collaborations and the urgency of artists and their practices. He breaks down unconventional notions of what defines an artist and why he no longer uses the word 'decolonising'.

Credits: Story

Citation: B. Andrew, S. Henry-Jones, J. Hutchens, E. Malcolm, J. Polutele (eds), 22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN catalogue, Biennale of Sydney Ltd, Sydney, 2020, pp. 324–326.
Copyright © Biennale of Sydney Ltd, 2020.

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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