Australia is a stable, culturally diverse and democratic society with one of the strongest performing economies in the world. With an estimated population of more than 22.5 million, Australia is the only nation to govern an entire continent. It is the earth’s biggest island and sixth-largest country in the world in land area, about the size of mainland United States and one and a half times the size of Europe. Australia has 10 per cent of the world’s biodiversity, and a great number of its native plants, animals and birds exist nowhere else in the world. From tropical rainforests in the north, to the deserts of the Red Centre, to the snowfields in its southeast, to the Australian Antarctic Territory, Australia is a vast and varied country. It has many internationally recognized World Heritage sites, including the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park and the Sydney Opera House. Australia’s economy is consistently among the most advanced in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). As of 2011, it is the world’s 13th largest economy, with commitment to ongoing economic reform and global engagement that emphasizes free trade and investment. With low unemployment, low inflation and low government debt, a highly skilled workforce produced by a world-class education system, and strong links with the fastest growing region in the world, the Asia–Pacific, Australia’s economy is set to excel into the future. Australia’s foreign and trade policy is focused on promoting its security and long-term prosperity. It seeks to protect and advance its national interests in a rapidly changing environment, while supporting a stable global order. A commitment to multilateralism, in particular the United Nations, is a central tenet of Australian foreign policy. Australia has been integrally involved in global efforts to build peace and security for decades, just as it has in promoting global trade and investment liberalization. Additionally, Australia’s spectacular natural environment, diversity and high quality of life make it a popular international tourist destination, with nearly six million people visiting Australia in 2011.
Description of Australia Pavilion’s Art:
Here art grows on trees, Gill’s installation comprises Half Moon Shine, 2003- made of mild steel with a 158 centimeter diameter, Naught, 2010- consisting of objects in shape of zeros found on walks and Let Go, Let’s Go, 2013- a collage of ink on 12 paper and wood panels with text extracted from 144 books measuring 120 x 280 centimeters.
Let Go, Let’s Go, 2013:
From a distance, Let Go, Let’s Go looks as if swarming insects are hovering in migration. Upon closer examination, the bodies of the “insects” are actually printed text from torn-out pages of books. While the lines and marks Gill made across each piece of text seem arbitrary, like someone casually sketches over an extraneous word or noting a change in the text, these markings seem to give movement and life to the piece. Even on a closer look these still look a little like insects moving across a plane rather than just printed text on a wall in stasis. Here it also seems to confront the reality of how printed text and books are slowly giving way in the ever rapidly growing digital age. While our present economic environment requires speed and proficiency to propel the cycle of production and consumption, therefore less attention is paid to the details of things.
Half Moon Shine, 2013:
Proceeding onward, Half Moon Shine is a heavy steel piece that shifts the “lightness” experienced from Let’s Go, Let’s Go to something more sturdy and weighty. The sacred and reverent feeling of this piece seems to come from its apparent physical weight and the impossibility of it being able to be moved by a single individual and its circular shape like a metaphor for a life lived in full-circle. While Half Moon Shine is faced up to the open ceiling and thus to the sky, it opens itself up to the offerings of nature and slowly collects it inside of it’s body in the form of rain. As the result, the inside surface changes color and texture as rust discolors and roughens its surface.
Just before exiting the pavilion, Naught is an installation of objects found by Gill from walks in her home in Malaysia. By using found objects, Gill brings personal history and narrative into this work. The objects resemble zeros, which are strung up seemingly as necklaces or rings of keys on a wall painted entirely black. The arrangement looks as if each necklace and ring is a constellation in the night sky. All of these objects have once belonged to something useful or was a part of something once treasured. Yet as with the passage of time, detached from original use and their origins of birth these displaced objects seem to have lost their value have become nebulous. All together, the circles and zeros form a colorful palette capturing our visual curiosity. The circular shapes also seem to signify a non-linear world-view of everything starts and finishes at the same point. In other words, drawing a full circle completes its existence and returns itself back to its origin. Metaphorically, like this entire exhibition that is exposed to elements, in the end, it will become part of nature and thus have traveled a full circle.
Analysis of Australian Pavilion:
The choice of Gill to represent Australia creates an illusion of an inclusive, free and open nation. However, there remains a historical tension in Australia from the legacy of the White Australia policy (1901-1973) that favored immigration of white people from Great Britain. This nation building myth with its imagined white community was one that had to defend itself from its perceived ‘threat’ of Asia. More recently, the perceived threat has been from asylum seekers, but the rhetoric is much the same, the language of the ‘Othering’. Historically, Australian artists represented at the Venice Biennial have been clearly representative of this white vision. Now it seems that a geographically dislocated subject can be an Australian. Gill’s inclusion may leave the viewer wondering if this is an Australian acknowledgement of the shifting geopolitical landscape or is she an anomaly?
Simryn Gill Biography:
Simryn Gill was born in 1959 in Singapore, raised in Malaysia, and educated in India and the United Kingdom. She works in sculpture, photography, drawing, and writing. She is a systematic collector, especially of books as objects of reverence and dispute. Gill currently splits her time working in Sydney, Australia and Port Dickson, Malaysia. She is currently represented by Tracy Williams gallery of New York.