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Fremantle Biennale history

The Fourth Fremantle Biennale, SIGNALS 23, will take place 3-19 November 2023.

The Fremantle Biennale was founded in 2017 with the intention of creating a festival that expanded contemporary artistic and cultural programming within greater Fremantle. It takes place on the unceded lands and waters of the Whadjuk people of the Nyoongar nation. The Fremantle Biennale is held every two years in the Nyoongar season of Kambarang (November). Previous iterations were HIGH TIDE 17, UNDERCURRENT 19 and CROSSING 21.

Founded in 2017, the Fremantle Biennale is a distinct visual arts program that celebrates and builds on Fremantle’s history and reputation as a creative city through the presentation of internationally recognised and experimental site-responsive contemporary art practices. The first incarnation HIGH TIDE 17 ran for two weeks in November 2017 with work from over 35 international, local and national artists. UNDERCURRENT 19 was the second edition of the Fremantle Biennale expanded to a three-week program.

HIGH TIDE 17 was the title of the first FB, in 2017. The Arcs d'Ellipses of Felice Varini was installed in October 2017 as part of that Biennale, but the work did not begin to be taken down until the end of 2018, causing significant damage to the surfaces of the buildings to which it was attached, damage which was repaired at great cost.

The 2019 Fremantle Biennale, entitled UNDERCURRENT 19, showed 'Sleeping with the Sun' - the work of Kayako Nakashima, 2-24 November 2019 - while Sam Bloor's work was visible in the windows in 8 Phillimore Street of the 'Old' Customs House. Also shown was the internationally acclaimed light installation WATERLICHT by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde. The first time the studio has presented this work in the Southern Hemisphere, the installation called attention to rising water levels and the climate change crisis.

CROSSING 21 was the title of the Third Biennale, 2021.
The ‘Fremantle Biennale’ is a festival of site-responsive contemporary art, which transforms the West Australian city into an immersive art gallery for two weeks every two years. The third iteration, titled ‘CROSSING 21’, on show from 5 to 21 November across multiple sites, explores Walyalup’s (Fremantle’s) intrinsic past and present relationship with the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River); tracing its shores from Walyalup to Dyoondalup (Point Walter) and through to the Derbarl Nara (Coogee Beach), with a focus of activity between the two iconic bridges. This is a place of alchemy where histories intersect and collide, where the bilya (river) meets the wardan (sea) in a place of confluence.
When the world is experiencing health, social, economic, and environmental crises, ‘CROSSING 21’ looks to art as a form of connection. Eighteen artworks and performances respond to Fremantle’s built, natural and historic environment, each aiming to facilitate new conversations and share collective stories. Highlights include; Moombaki, a fleet of over 160 drones taking flight over water in an epic spectacle of light, movement and sound, to tell ancient and living stories of place by emerging Nyoongar artist Ilona McGuire & Elders. Andrew Sunley Smith’s Overload comprises a submerged, marooned vessel excessively loaded with local limestone rock spall, designed to symbolise commerce and export. And for Outside In, Amrita Hepi sets up an international hotline for messages and song requests for a loved one you are missing and haven’t seen due to the nature of confinement. A lone and lit podium will become the site for re-dancing the collected dedications in a continuous audio and performance work during the Biennale.

References and Links

Most of the words above come from various official statements.

2023 program.

Garry Gillard | New: 20 August, 2023 | Now: 10 November, 2023