The NGV Triennial brings contemporary art, design and architecture into dialogue, offering a visually arresting and thought-provoking view of the world at this time. Featuring major new commissions and recent works that span geography, perspective and genre, the exhibition celebrates the work of some of the world’s most accomplished artists and designers, while also giving voice to emerging practitioners.
Discover the stories behind key artworks in the NGV Triennial and listen to audio highlights in Mandarin as you explore the exhibition on all four levels of NGV International.
Refik Andaol’s Quantum memories, 2020, draws upon a dataset of more than two hundred million nature-related images from the internet, which are processed using an exceptionally fast quantum computer that has been programmed with machine learning algorithms. The resulting real-time video can be considered both an alternate dimension of the natural world and a radical visualisation of our digitised memories of nature. Anadol’s arresting visuals and accompanying audio are composed in collaboration with a generative algorithm enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing – a new form of computing that exploits the unusual physics of the subatomic world – turning the visual data that flows around us every day into an artwork that represents our collective memory of nature. Through the work, the artist encourages us to imagine the potential of this experimental computer technology and the immense opportunities it presents for the future of art and design.
Jeff Koons’s Venus, 2016–20, is part of the artist’s ongoing Porcelain series, which juxtaposes classical ideals of beauty with sophisticated contemporary production technologies. Made of mirror-polished stainless steel, the sculpture is based on an eighteenth century porcelain figurine of the same name by the German sculptor Wilhelm Christian Meyer. Mirrors and reflections have long been hallmarks of Koons’s work and he has cited his love for the intoxicating quality of the reflection and its resulting distortion, as well as its ability to implicate the viewer within the work. The artist suggests, ‘one of the most used words in philosophy is to “reflect”. To reflect is an inward process, but also an outward process. The use of reflective surfaces was to connect the work to philosophy and the experience of becoming. And that we not only have our internal life, but we also have the external world – this interaction is what gives us a future. Reflections tell the viewer that nothing is ever happening without them. Art happens inside them’
杰夫·昆斯（Jeff Koons）的《维纳斯》（2016-2020年）是该艺术家正在创作中的陶瓷系列的一部分，该系列将理想的古典美与精致的当代生产技术相结合。这座由镜面抛光的不锈钢制成的雕像，是根据十八世纪德国雕塑家Wilhelm Christian Meyer的同名瓷偶制作的。长久以来，镜面和反射都是Koons作品的标志。他对反射这一令人着迷的品质和由此产生的扭曲，及其将参观者融入作品的能力深感热爱。Koons表示：“哲学中最常用的一个词就是‘反思’。”反思是一个内在的过程，也是一个外在的过程。使用反射表面是为了将艺术作品与哲学和演化的体验连结起来。我们不仅有自己内在的生活，还有外在的世界，二者互动创造了我们的未来。参观者自身的反射是在告诉他们，没有参观者，一切都不会发生。艺术产生于参观者之中。
Porky Hefer Plastocene – Marine Mutants from a Disposable World Ground Level, Gallery 2
Plastocene – Marine Mutants from a Disposable World, 2020, presents imaginary sea creatures from a dystopian future which designer Porky Hefer calls the Plastocene. Marking the end of the current fossil-fuelled epoch, the Anthropocene, here the cigarette butts, cotton buds, straws, coffee cups, fishing nets and other discarded detritus of humans’ hyper-consumerist lifestyles and environmental neglect have transmutated into a new type of life. In a twist of evolutionary fate, Hefer imagines what would happen if refined hydrocarbon distillates from fossil fuels fused with organic DNA to generate new forms. While humans would struggle to inhabit this toxic future, Hefer hopes that life would still continue through these new life forms following the mass extinction that he sees as being selfishly perpetuated in contemporary society. Plastocene – Marine Mutants from a Disposable World has been handmade with a community of artisans in and around Cape Town, South Africa.
In Alicja Kwade’s WeltenLinie, 2020, nothing is quite what it seems. Evolving as an experience rather than a static installation, this work comes to life through the viewer’s movement. Through the use of double sided mirrors and carefully placed, paired objects, Kwade’s installation creates the illusion of sudden and surprising material transformations. As visitors move within the steel structure, the way that objects are understood within the space shifts dramatically, depending on perspective. Kwade’s work explores concepts of space, time, science and philosophy. In her practice that spans across a wide range of media, she questions the structures of reality and reflects on perceptual habits in everyday life
Dhambit Munuŋgurr works at the Yolŋu-run art centre Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka (Buku) in Arnhem Land. When it comes to Yolŋu art at Buku, it is customary that artists who paint Country and the stories it holds, use materials collected from Country. Ochres and other pigments drawn from the land are ground against a flat stone, mixed with a water and glue and applied with a marwat (human hairbrush) to single sheets of stringybark (Eucalyptus tetrodonta) to represent stories and places specific to the artist. Overwhelmingly, Yolŋu artists paint exclusively with ochres collected from the natural environment. Munuŋgurr’s journey towards discovering the colour blue began in 2005, when following a car accident she was left wheelchair-bound with limited mobility. After her accident, Munuŋgurr was given special permission to paint with store-bought acrylic paint, which she finds easier to manipulate. The colour blue is relatively rare in living nature and yet, some of the largest expanses of colour visible to the human eye are blue. When asked why she paints with blue, Munuŋgurr replied ‘because the earth is blue, the sea is blue, and the sky is blue’. This installation Can we all have a happy life?, 2019–20, is presented in collaboration with Buku-Larrŋgay Mulka Centre.
‘I grew up playing a lot of sports, and my brothers are all athletes and so is my sister. The work mainly focuses on classism, the idea of being elite and my personal experiences with those ideas … I think trophies, in a way, to me at least, are a very American thing – the athlete mindset and being competitive at a really young age. Also, I feel like there’s more emphasis on the Black body to be good at some type of labour. I think trophies, they’re always doing some type of position, like in the middle of doing something. Usually within the media, or even photography, Black people are always in motion. You never can just be at rest. My work is tied to racism and classism, if you look at the plaques. I think Americans don’t really play sports just to play a sport. It’s looked at more as damn near a career. The personal, social and political, they all essentially connect, but they’re not identical. So, there’s a lot of things within these trophies that people can look at and resonate with, but it’s not a universal piece. I’m not trying to make it a universal piece. It’s very personal.’ Diamond Stingily, 2020
Over the past two decades, Tomoaki Suzuki has employed a unique approach to creating his hand carved lime wood figures in a practice he describes as ‘taking photographs through sculpture’. Suzuki looks for potential models in the streets of his neighbourhood in Dalston, London, and identifies young people who have a distinctive style and who use fashion to express their individuality. He takes around three months to create each of the figures, which are scaled at one third of the model’s size. Beginning with a piece of wood, he carefully carves the sculpture before painting it to capture the different textures and tones of clothing and skin. During this process Suzuki usually spends many hours with his models in his studio. For the most recent work on display, Marisa, 2020, the model had to return to her home in Canada just before lockdown was imposed in the UK in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so he had to finish this sculpture working remotely, with Marisa posing in front of a computer. This year’s shared experience of keeping apart also found its way into Suzuki’s work, as he applied social distancing measures to the configuration of his sculptures in this space.
Patricia Urquiola’s Recycled woollen island, 2020, is an interactive resting place that encourages pause and reflection on the intricate details and colour arrays of the NGV Great Hall ceiling by artist Leonard French. Drawing on Urquiola’s ongoing investigation into environmental production, recycled and upcycled textile, and artisanal crafts, the work turns recycled wool felt and upcycled PET into sophisticated furnishings – hand fabricated by Valencia-based furniture and textile manufacturer GAN with a team of artisans in India. Continuing Urquiola’s passion for the capacity of objects to contain narrative, message or meaning, this project brings together people, cultures and nature. It also draws upon the universal language of humour. The pairs of giant socks, with their embroidered texts, rest on a carpet island to create a quirky and evocative landscape for rest and play. Urquiola’s intention is for these ‘soft giants’ to create a utopian space where socks are larger than humans, and where the colours of the ceiling plus the colours of the installation will ‘melt together with each sun ray’.
JR’s Homily to Country, 2020, draws attention to the ecological decline of the Darling (Baaka) River, Australia’s third longest river, caused by intensive water extraction due to irrigation, climate change and drought. Stimulated by an interest in the plight of farmers globally and the tensions that often exist between Indigenous peoples, ‘family farms’ and multinational agribusinesses, JR’s work also focuses on the human impact of the river’s decline. Envisaged as an open-air chapel, Homily to Country draws on the materiality of JR’s recent projects – a simple scaffold structure with a printed façade – which houses five large-scale stained glass windows. Each of these windows features the artist’s photography from a 2020 research trip, and accompanying the installation is a film documenting JR’s field research. Two portraits depict orchardists who have been forced to remove and burn their families’ commercial orchards due to lack of irrigation flows, and the third depicts a senior Baakandji Elder and spokesperson for the Darling (Baaka) River. For the Baakandji, the health of the river is inextricably and directly related to the health of their culture. Not only does the river offer food, fibre and shelter, but also a central proposition around which to structure culture. In 2020 large sections of the river ran dry.
Botanical pavilion, 2020, is a collaboration between Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and Australian artist Geoff Nees. The structure is a circular pavilion made in the Japanese tradition of wooden architecture, where pieces interlock, held by tension and gravity. The interior of this installation is lined with tiles of timber collected from trees felled or removed during the Millennium Drought (1996–2010) at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Some of the trees used within predate European colonisation, while others signal the evolution of the gardens as a site of scientific research and botanical classification. Importantly, the botanical species used for Botanical pavilion are colour coded, rather than following any taxonomic order. By prioritising natural phenomena over scientific order, the designers call into question the reductive nature of science during the colonial era – a mindset at odds with many Indigenous cultural beliefs and knowledge systems. Botanical pavilion offers a site for contemplation, reminding us of our relationships to nature and one another. As a sensory experience, Botanical pavilion is also a walkway through which to approach and contemplate the philosophical nature of South Korean artist Lee Ufan’s painting Dialogue, 2017.
Central to the work of Los Angeles–based art collective Fallen Fruit (David Allen Burns and Austin Young) is the desire to create beautiful and sumptuous spaces where audiences can enjoy museum collections in new, unexpected ways that simultaneously reveal a series of layered social constructs. Using the medium of wallpaper, Fallen Fruit creates unique designs inspired by seemingly local flora and fauna. Natural History, 2020, takes its subject matter from Australia, and critically combines introduced species of birds and plants together with indigenous ones, many of them drawn from images held in the NGV Collection. As an immersive environment, Natural History also includes works from the NGV Collection, creating completely new visual and cultural contexts in which to view European and Australian paintings and sculptures. Seeing the artworks in this new way helps draw into question the preconceived knowledge and ideas that usually frame our understanding of art, history, place, indigeneity and colonialism. Fallen Fruit critically revisits and questions a range of issues in Natural History, including colonialism and its social constructs with regards to the classification of the natural world, narrative depictions of religion and the supernatural in art. In the artists’ selection, organisation and juxtaposition of historical artworks from the NGV Collection combined with their wallpaper, contemporary disruptions and perspectives on race, class, gender and sexuality emerge.
洛杉矶艺术组合“落果（Fallen Fruit）”由David Allen Burns和Austin Young组成。其作品的核心是创造华美空间的欲念。让观众能以全新的、意想不到的方式欣赏博物馆藏品，同时揭示一系列层叠的社会建构。以墙纸为媒介，落果创造了独特的设计，从看似本土的动植物中汲取灵感。《自然历史》（2020年）取材于澳大利亚，并将外来的鸟类和植物与本土物种进行了批判性的结合，其中许多都来自NGV收藏的图片。《自然历史》是一个沉浸式的环境，容纳了NGV收藏的作品，创造了全新的视觉和文化背景，让参观者在其中欣赏欧洲和澳大利亚的绘画和雕塑。我们对艺术、历史、地方、土著和殖民主义理解框架的构成，通常有一些先入为主的知识和观念。而以这种新方式欣赏艺术品，有助于对这些知识和观念提出质疑。落果在《自然历史》这一作品中，以批判的眼光重新审视和质疑了一系列问题，包括殖民主义及其与自然世界分类有关的社会建构、对宗教的叙事描述以及艺术中的超自然现象。艺术家对NGV藏品中历史艺术作品的选择、组织和并置，与其创作的壁纸相结合，呈现出了当代的纷扰以及新兴的种族、阶级、性别和性取向观点。
This gallery, where more than 140 paintings created in the nineteenth century are displayed, evokes the manner of picture hanging undertaken in Paris at the annual Salon and in London at the Royal Academy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, known today as a ‘salon hang’. By the mid-nineteenth century, salon hangs typically displayed works from floor to ceiling. Visitors sometimes brought spyglasses to these exhibitions, in order to see the works that were ‘skied’ or hung close to the exhibition venue’s ceilings. The Paris Salon and the Royal Academy exhibitions attracted people from all levels of society, before the invention of cinema, as primary vehicles for disseminating visual culture relevant to their audiences. Salon et lumière, 2020, seeks to recreate the exhilaration experienced by nineteenth century audiences in a twenty-first-century context, to capture for new audiences the immersive thrill felt by their forebears more than a century and a half ago. Modern illumination and projection techniques have been combined here with an immersive soundscape to recreate for our own time the clamorous power of these great exhibitions.
Cloud Formations celebrates looking closely to find joy in the passing beauty of our surroundings. The textile forms blend light, architecture and craft to capture the confluence of heat, moisture, particles, light and air momentarily visible in a cloud. To create the works, Bendixen’s creative process involves a team of makers hand folding and stitching masses of textile with needle and thread over several months. When the textiles are suspended from the ceiling, and the elegant geometry of threads and seam lines tug and fold the textile, the forms emerge. In the context of this display, Cloud Formations brings to life the effects of nature that also captivated Romantic painters such as J. M. W. Turner.
《云的形成》讲的是通过仔细观察，在身边瞬间即逝的美好中找寻乐趣。这种纺织品的形态融合了光、建筑和工艺，捕捉了云层里短暂可见的热、湿气、粒子、光和空气。在该作品的创作过程中，本迪克森（Bendixen）的制作团队在几个月的时间里，用针线手工折叠和缝合了大量的纺织品。当纺织品从天花板上悬挂下来，线和缝线拉扯、折叠纺织品，优雅的几何形状就此成形。在本次展览的语境下，《云的形成》让自然之力焕然如生，正是这样的力量吸引了J. M. W. 透纳等浪漫主义画家。
Indonesian collective Tromarama (Febie Babyrose, Herbert Hans and Ruddy Hatumena) explore ideas about hyperreality and the interrelationship between the virtual and physical world. Solaris, 2020, is an LED curtain bringing to life a luminous ecosystem populated with blooms of jellyfish inspired by a unique marine environment – a landlocked body of salt and rainwater formed more than 11,000 years ago, located off the coast of Indonesia’s Kalimantan Island. Predator-free and able to thrive in warm waters, the jellyfish species living in this environment have evolved differently and are providing scientific communities with a living laboratory for studying the potential effects of climate change on marine systems. Through video gaming computer programming, this digital simulation draws from real-time weather data from the lake. Elements of this simulated world respond to weather changes such as wind speed, which moves the camera across the undulating terrain, temperature readings, which affect the size and number of jellyfish, and cloud cover and UV readings, which alter the colour palette of the environment. The work presents a virtual forecast of one of the most significant events facing the future of the planet today.
Carnovsky’s Extinctions, 2020, reveals the precarity of life on Earth by depicting different species on the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List – a categorisation of seven risk levels from Extinct to Least Concern. The designers have organised a selection of insects, plants and animals into three groups based on their risk category. Each group has been rendered in either red, green or blue ink to create a dynamic and decorative wallpaper. The red wallpaper layer depicts Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable species, the green depicts species listed as Near Threatened and Least Concern, and the blue depicts species now Extinct. When white light shines on the wallpaper it appears as a technicolour graphic experience – a contemporary representation of eighteenth and nineteenth-century Western scientific specimen illustrations. By playing with the way the human eye perceives the Red Green Blue (RGB) colour spectrum, the wallpaper comes to ‘life’ as colour shifts to conceal or reveal different species. The designers intend the work to remind us of the interconnection between all life on the planet. The shifting layers emphasise the ever-changing nature of species and habitat loss – if human activity can lead to extinction, can it also be capable of reversing this devastating trend?
Angela Tiatia’s Narcissus reimagines the Greco-Roman Narcissus myth, in which a beautiful young man falls in love with his own reflection, into a poignant and textured allegory of contemporary culture and its obsession with and worship of the self through social media. Behind the kneeling self-absorbed figure of Narcissus, which specifically references Caravaggio’s Narcissus, 1597–99, a cast of forty Narcissi performs acts of self-worship, ritual, joy, love, lust, complacency, despair and disregard, exposing communal vulnerabilities, frustrations, flaws and strengths that highlight and amplify uncertain and challenging times ahead. Tiatia’s use of blackness and the brilliant effects of light and shadow are modelled on Caravaggio’s highly distinctive use of tenebroso, the dramatic illumination of figures in darkness also shown in seventeenth century oil paintings that surround Narcissus. Tiatia’s hyper-dramatic lighting effects illuminate and animate the myth of the proud youth, their sculptured contours and egocentric posturing against a blackened stage – echoing the black mirror of a computer, iPad or iPhone screen – tellingly exploits tenebroso by digital means. Tiatia’s references to history and popular culture draw attention to their relationship to representation, gender, neo-colonialism and the commodification of the body.
Daniel Arsham’s Hidden figures, 2020, uses the form of draped fabric to articulate anonymous figures, subtly turning the attention to questions of representation in the history of European painting. Four human-scale figures are drawn from two famed paintings in the NGV Collection: Giambattista Tiepolo’s The Banquet of Cleopatra, 1743–44, and Nicolas Régnier’s Hero and Leander, c. 1625–26. Featuring one male and one female figure from each painting – respectively Cleopatra and a serving boy, plus Hero and Leander – the figures hold the same poses found in the original paintings, but appear draped in a white cloth. On closer inspection the ‘cloth’ is hollow, draping over a figure that is no longer contained within.
The form of Cerith Wyn Evans’s C=O=D=A, 2019–20, unfolds as a drawing in light, suspended in space. The work is a culmination of Wyn Evans’s suite of large neon ‘drawings’ and it explores the legacy of Japanese Noh Theatre. Noh is a form of traditional, highly coded theatre involving music, movement, dance and elaborate costuming, originating in Japan during the fourteenth century. C=O=D=A comprises multiple visual elements ranging from scribble-like gestures to diagrammatic symbols. The work includes references to the structural formulae for chemical compounds, along with a form of a choreographic score describing movement. Brought to life by the artist’s signature white neon, the work punctuates the field of vision with rapid vectors, loops, lines, curves and geometric forms, the relationships between each shifting as the viewer moves around the work.
The components of Erez Nevi Pana’s Crystalline, 2020, made in Israel’s Dead Sea area, examine the metamorphosis of salt as a basic raw material into a deliberate, refined composition. In the process, the crystal growth and natural ecological processes become an architectural material and potential new way of approaching architectural practice. This work consists of distinct structural elements – a ladder, boulder, block and stepping stones. While the boulder is a naturally occurring object comprising solid salt, the others demonstrate a repertoire of techniques developed by Nevi Pana, including subaqueous crystal growth in Dead Sea pools, melting of salt and merging salt with clay. When combined, the components reference concepts of motion and flow, evolution and growth. A journey starts with the ladder as a metaphor for ascension from the Dead Sea – the lowest point on the Earth’s surface – and concludes with the walkway, a series of cast salt blocks emblematic of formal construction materials that Nevi Pana terms ‘marble of the poor’. This elongated walkway demonstrates a symbolic transition to a new physical reality. The work postulates that salt-based architecture could introduce new and more sustainable means for housing, tourism and public works.
Hannah Brontë’s immersive video installation EYE HEAR U MAGIK 2020 explores how ancestral intuition has been passed down through Aboriginal people in the wake of colonisation. She uses music and film to unblock intuitive beliefs and tune into a deep sense of knowing, which she refers to by many names including ‘the knowing’, ‘the cunning’ and ‘illpunja’. Offering a foreboding sense of the future, the work explores the ways in which Brontë’s culture and spirituality have been and continue to be appropriated. It is Brontë’s most ambitious video to date and her first commission by the NGV.
Tabor Robak’s highly detailed computer-generated animations comprise imagery derived from varied digital and organic sources such as microbiology, advanced robotics, data storage and sacred iconography. Around the walls are the ‘Magi’ – lifeforms that evoke the technologies that artificial intelligence (AI) is most likely to emerge from including geo-imaging and cartography, military science and weaponisation, high-frequency trading and healthcare. Glowing and cavernous, Megafauna creates both a sacred space and a sci-fi dystopia reflecting the mythology and deitylike importance we place on AI in our present trajectory as a society. The aesthetic represented in the installation – digital, organic, imagined and real – evokes the sensation of the concurrent risks and benefits of advanced technology. Through this complexity, Robak invites reflection on the ethical and philosophical implications of our relationship to technology.
Working as an independent costume designer since 2011, Tomo Koizumi gained recent prominence via the social media platform Instagram after his work was brought to the attention of influential English stylist Katie Grand. Grand facilitated the presentation of Koizumi’s debut collection during New York Fashion Week 2019, introducing international audiences to his sculpturally exuberant designs. Top and skirt is Koizumi’s version of a rainbow pride flag. Incorporating more than 200 metres of multicoloured, ruffled polyester organza, the work is intended as a comment on inclusivity and the need to ‘see and touch beauty’ in difficult times.
Liu Shiyuan works in photography, video and installation. In her work she is drawn to the everyday: snippets of overheard conversations; familiar, unremarkable objects and images; and the apparently endless stream of imagery on the internet. For her Almost Like Rebar series 2018, the three works included in NGV Triennial are constructed from a combination of images which have no apparent relationship, mimicking the random array of images that can be found through simple internet searches. In one work Liu has combined images of a croissant, a couple about to kiss, pottery fragments, a patchwork quilt, and a coloured grid. In another she has combined a gridded arrangement containing details of decorative ceramics, painted scenes, photographic images and a bonsai tree. In each work the seemingly randomly selected elements are unified by the gridded structure and her use of a limited palette. Describing her work Liu said, ‘In daily life I am attracted to simple things which everyone finds beautiful. In other words to the most basic concept of beauty – it’s not about how rich the colour is, or how modern or how minimal it feels, those are all about taste. Instead, I aim to show my understanding of things without changing their status.’ In the resulting works the artist has created aesthetically pleasing order from the fathomless chaos of the internet.