If Australia’s incredible rivers, wetlands, salt and freshwater ecosystems could speak, what do you think they would say?
Whilst Indigenous knowledge has long recognised aqueous beings as living ancestral beings, it is only recently that some of Australia’s most incredible natural wonders have been explored within the lens of personhood, and in doing so, have gained legal recognition and rights.
Rīvus is the 23rd Biennale of Sydney, and this year invites you into dialogue with the voices of wetlands situated along the waterways of the Gadigal, Burramatahal and Cabrogal peoples. These aqueous ecosystems have a long story to tell. As fundamental avenues of survival and cultural development, these waterways have been routes of communication, sites of rituals and mass graves for thousands of years. It is only in recent centuries that these wetland ecosystems have experienced the impacts of colonial enterprise, often becoming centres of conflict driven by colonial greed and exploitation.
It is with the help of artists, architects, designers, scientists and local communities that Rīvus will explore the voice and story of these wetlands in the Gadigal, Burramatahal and Cabrogal regions. The artworks, experiments, activism and research that takes place over this exhibition are advocacy and action for sustainability, encouraging locality, collectivity, collaboration and reduced waste, as well as non-polluting materials and production.
At the entrance of each exhibition venue, a different Australian waterway is displayed. The river’s cultural significance and ecological wonders are explored by a First Nations custodian narrator. Such narrations are a meticulous curatorial device that explores the equal status and interest the exhibition affords to the art, science, activism and traditional knowledge disciplines surrounding wetland ecosystems in Australia.
This exhibition is only held once every two years in Sydney, and is among the most high-profile exhibition platforms of our times. Visit the exhibition from the 12th of March to the 13th of June to experience the captivating and wondrous works of some of Australia’s most talented artists, in conversations with nature.
Image credit: “The River” by Adam Cvijanovic, available here