Biennale Archive Stories #4: Mami Kataoka with Rhana Devenport: An Open Interview with Lisa Reihana, John Reynolds and Peter Robinson


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As part of the Biennale of Sydney’s investigation into their Archive, 21st Biennale Artistic Director Mami Kataoka and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki Director Rhana Devenport co-moderate a conversation with three New Zealand artists whose contributions to Biennale of Sydney editions in 1998, 2000, 2006 and 2012 remain in our memories.

Speaker Biographies

Lisa Reihana has recently returned from Europe after representing New Zealand in this year’s Venice Biennale with her exhibition Emissaries. She participated in the Biennale’s 2000 ‘era-defining’ survey together with the collective Pacific Sisters, founded in 1992 and including members Selina Forsyth, Jaunnie Illolahia, Ani O’Neill, Rosanna Raymond, Lisa Reihana, Suzanne Tamaki, Niwhai Tupaea and Feeonaa Wall. Her collaborative and individual work has interrogated the implications of colonialism on the inadequate documentation of Pacific peoples and their experiences, and re-centers indigenous perspectives by disrupting colonial history.

John Reynolds’ Cloud (2006) installation for the 12th Biennale of Sydney (2006), consisting of over 7,000 canvases painted with ‘New Zealandisms’, activated the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ central court and left a lasting impression on audiences. His recent series of paintings FrenchBayDarkly… focuses on the late Colin McCahon’s ‘missing hours’ on the eve of the 1984 Biennale, in which McCahon was lost in the Royal Botanic Gardens, and found disoriented the following day five kilometres east in Centennial Park.

Peter Robinson participated in the 11th and 18th Biennales, with In Search of the Um World (1998) and Gravitas Lite (2012) – the former, exhibited at the waterfront warehouse Pier 2/3, was a makeshift world accessed by donning an alien mask; the latter, a monumental chain-work installation made from polystyrene, exhibited in Cockatoo Island’s industrial precinct. His practice has explored contradictions between motif, materiality and idea, with a visual language that has consistently subverted artistic and cultural conventions.

Rhana Devenport is the Director of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, and former Manager of Public and Education Programs for the 15th Biennale of Sydney.

Mami Kataoka is the Artistic Director of the 21st Biennale of Sydney and Chief Curator at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo.

Biennale Archive Stories is a series of talks and interviews investigating the Biennale of Sydney’s 40-plus-year history with witnesses and protagonists. Approaching its 21st edition and 45th year, the Biennale considers its role over time, both in Sydney and the region. What can we learn from its achievements and controversies? What is its relevance today?

Auditorium, lower ground level