Learning objectives

  • Discuss how artists express ideas and use materials, techniques and visual conventions in artworks from a range of places, times and cultures
  • Explore ideas and artworks from different cultures and times as inspiration to create visual artworks
  • Use works of art and design to provoke discussion, connect ideas and inspire investigation across the curriculum

Links to the Victorian Curriculum

Using this resource

The cards in this resource can be used individually to inspire activities and research in response to the suggestions on each card. They could be grouped in response to investigations of the exhibition themes or curated to suit student interest. Exhibition themes and artworks could be used to inspire or enhance investigations across curriculum areas.

Before your visit

  • Discuss the ideas that each exhibition theme might lead to, identifying different possible questions and topics for investigation from each theme.
  • Choose one or more topics to investigate further.
  • Consider how the investigation might inspire works of art or design.
  • Introduce the artists’ cards and ask students to choose one that interests them. Ask them to share why they have chosen that work. How might it relate to the class discussion?
  • The chosen works could be used to create a plan for your visit to the exhibition.

During your visit

  • Guide students’ viewing of the works using the prompts provided on the cards.
  • Ask students to find out more about the works in the exhibition using the exhibition labels or information from an educator.
  • Consider the ways that the works match the themes, ideas and topics explored in the pre-visit brainstorm.
  • You might like to use Harvard Project Zero Thinking Routines,1 such as See, Wonder, Connect x2, Creative Comparisons or I Used to Think… Now I Think… to explore ideas in selected works.

After your visit

  • Ask students to make a diagram that shows the connections and differences between two or more of the works they saw in the exhibition.
  • Revisit the topics for investigation identified before your visit.
  • Use the prompts on the cards to explore the works further.
  • Create your own artwork inspired by an artwork or idea you have explored.

Triennial themes

The section below expands each Triennial theme to include suggested topics that can be further explored in teaching and learning activities through the artworks included in this pack. This information will be displayed on each card as it relates to the artwork.


This theme offers different perspectives on the human condition and asks us to consider identity at both the individual and community level. Through photography, film, sculpture and architecture, artists celebrate the dynamism of life, and challenge preconceived ideas of race, gender, representation and power.

Key concepts for learning

  • Identity
  • Culture
  • Community
  • Human experience


Reflection is about identity – how we see ourselves and how we appear to others – as individuals and as a community:

  • Science: physics of reflection – light and waves, reflective materials
  • English: autobiography, stories of personal/national/community identity, monologue, voice
  • Design and Technology: designing with reflective materials for different purposes – design and architecture, safety, scientific
  • The Arts: exploration of personal and social cultures and identities


The theme of Conservation addresses accelerating ecological decline, from the plight of rivers and oceans to species extinction, as a consequence of human activity. Artists and designers as both storytellers and activists ask how we have separated ourselves from nature, and how our relationships with the natural world might be recalibrated.

Key concepts for learning

  • Sustainability
  • Environmentalism
  • Design
  • Human activity


Conservation explores our impact on the environment, our relationship with the natural world and how we might live more sustainably:

  • Science: changing weather systems, preservation of species and habitat, clean energy, sustainable
  • English: describing beautiful places, persuasive writing to make change
  • Design and Technology: sustainable design and lifecycle thinking
  • The Arts: creating and discussing works to highlight our environmental impact or call for change


What does the future look like? What if science, biology and technology could come together to create a future that is reshaped in collaboration with, rather than in opposition to, nature? This theme investigates the future where natural, synthetic and technological worlds are interwoven and new imagined worlds emerge.

Key concepts for learning

  • Shaping the future
  • Digital technologies
  • Sustainability


Speculation is about imagining how the future might look:

  • Science: making and testing hypotheses
  • English: science fiction genre
  • Design and Technology: imagining and designing for future needs, new materials
  • The Arts: imagining the future
  • Critical and Creative Thinking: thinking of new ways to organise the economy, government and management of resources


Illumination celebrates the poetic beauty of light as a universal metaphor for a range of emotions and ideas including human spirituality, progress and creativity. Artists and designers working with light as medium and symbol take us on journeys of enlightenment, invention and self-actualisation.

Key concepts for learning

  • Light – material
  • Light – symbol
  • Knowledge
  • Enlightenment


Illumination is about light, both as a medium and as a metaphor for emotions and ideas:

  • Science: the science of light, the invention of artificial light, the effects of different kinds of light on plants and humans, the effect of light on different materials
  • English: writing about ‘lightbulb moments’ of realisation or enlightenment, daylight or darkness, light and shadow
  • The Arts: creating with light and colour, tone and contrast, moments of enlightenment or realisation
  • Humanities and Social Sciences: discussion of the qualities of enlightened leadership, religion, faith, great moments in history and thought

Watch: Work of the Week

Take a deep dive into Tomoaki Suzuki’s Triennial 2021 project with an NGV Educator.


  1. Project Zero, ‘Project Zero’s Thinking Routine Toolbox’, Project Zero, 2019, Harvard Graduate School of Education, <http://www.pz.harvard.edu/thinking-routines>, accessed 23 November 2020.
  2. Carnovsky, ‘RGB Lens’, Carnovsky, 2020, <https://www.carnovsky.com/Lens_App.htm>, accessed 23 November 2020.
  3. Fallen Fruit, ‘About’, Fallen Fruit, 2020, <http://fallenfruit.org/about/>, accessed 23 November 2020.
  4. Read more about the Great Hall Ceiling: Only Melbourne, ‘NGV Great Hall & Waterwall’, OnlyMelbourne, 2020, <https://www.onlymelbourne.com.au/ngv-great-hall>, accessed 4 December 2020.
  5. Eric David, ‘Artist Stuart Haygarth elevates the prosaic to the sublime’, Yatzer, 1 April 2019, <https://www.yatzer.com/stuart-haygarth>, accessed 23 November 2020.