At the Edge of Ideas
Floating Land Biennale is Australia’s premier art-in-the-environment event, with temporary installations reaching out into select sites across Noosa to create unique experiences of both art and place. Noosa Regional Gallery Director Michael Brennan sits down with Floating Land Artistic Director, Michael Brennan to find out what this year’s event is all about.
‘Floating Land’ – it sounds like some dystopian science fiction movie. How do you explain it to people who haven’t experienced the event before?
This year actually marks the eleventh iteration of Floating Land. It started out in 2001 as an outdoor sculpture program curated by then Noosa Regional Gallery Director, Kevin Wilson. Artists worked with nature and in nature, with a view to break down the more typical arms-length experience of art that takes place in art galleries. The artists could be seen making and installing their works outdoors, and the works occupied public spaces where art isn’t usually encountered.
When art works appear amongst stunning natural environments like those on offer in Noosa, themes around environment and climate invariably emerge as core concerns for both individual artists and the biennale as a whole. In its more recent realisations, the strongest works – for me – borrow from and collaborate with the spaces they appear in, extending and merging the meaning associated with both and thus furthering awareness, conversation and action around climate change, sustainability, cultural and ecological diversity, and the myriad ways we frame, experience and understand nature.
And the name? What does ‘Floating Land’ mean?
It’s a bit like the most compelling art more broadly, I think. It’s not prescriptive. Everyone brings their own stories and interpretation to the title and the experience. The first Floating Land gathered together artists who created works in, on or over the diverse waterways that extend across Noosa, so in that way the name was somewhat descriptive of the physical situation of the works. Now I think the title evokes more poetic and allegorical interpretations.
This time around we have a work that is entirely underwater – no floating involved at all.
That sounds interesting. If it’s underwater, how do people see it?
Well, this particular work is a ‘fever’ of bronze stingrays – that’s the collective noun – sculpted by the super talented artist, Natalie Ryan. They’ll sit in the shallow waters just off the banks of Lake Cootharaba at Boreen Point. So visitors will be able to see them, much like you can sometimes see the real thing in the same shallow waters, lying on the sand just centimetres below the surface.
That said, we’ll also have a sound art experience presented by internationally acclaimed artist, Leah Barclay. Barclay gives us direct access to the soundscapes within the waters with hydrophones capturing communication between the creatures below and live streaming it to the adjacent dry land.
And what’s with these tyre swans I keep hearing about?
They belong to Fabrizio Biviano.
Black Swan Theory is an installation of 24 kitsch garden ornament tyre swans that have escaped the front yards of suburban Australia and flocked back to the natural waterways of Noosa.
The title also refers to a metaphor that describes an event that both comes as a surprise and has a substantial effect, yet is typically and inappropriately rationalised afterwards, with the benefit of hindsight.
It might be seen to apply to our inaction on climate change and the human impact on the environments we rely on to survive.
Embracing a dark sense of irony, car tyres actually account for the second largest source of micro-plastics polluting the world’s oceans and waterways, so there’s the gravity of that realisation to sit with as well.
Floating Land: at the edge of ideas
9 to 24 October
Various sites around Noosa
Visit floatingland for full details