Third edition of biennial West Australian art event is set to explore Fremantle’s intrinsic relationship with the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River). The Festival celebrates West Australian First Nations and non-Indigenous artists embracing emerging sustainable mediums including Australia’s first fleet of over 160 drones.
Today, the Fremantle Biennale announced the program for the third iteration of the site-responsive art festival, which will run from 5 – 21 November 2021.
With the title CROSSING 21, the event will explore Walyalup’s (Fremantle’s) intrinsic past and present relationship with the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River). Close attention will be paid to acknowledge and explore First Nations histories with the culturally and spiritually significant estuary – its main venues situated along the waterway of the Whadjuk Nyoongar people. Tracing the shores of the Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River) from Walyalup (Fremantle) to Dyoondalup (Point Walter), a focus of activity will take place between the two iconic Walyalup (Fremantle) bridges.
Inspiring the theme for CROSSING 21 is a seminal event that took place over one hundred years ago. At the mouth of the bilya (river) a sandstone tidal land bridge once existed which served as a natural crossing used by the Whadjuk people for safe passage, ritual and ceremonial practices. This rocky bar was blasted away by Chief Engineer C Y O’Connor to make way for the ever-growing Swan River colony in 1892.
Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Fremantle Biennale Tom Mùller commented that the event altered the course of history, causing disruption of a harmonious balance and tidal rhythm between ocean, river and people that had existed for millennia. “Colonial-settlers arrived and disrupted an ancient and carefully managed equilibrium that began when time itself was dreamed up – a time when keepers of Katitjin (knowledge) cared for Country in such a way that everything was one.” With the historic Fremantle Traffic Bridge currently being redesigned, the location is of particular interest and under close scrutiny by local residents and the City of Fremantle.
The program of participants for the third edition Fremantle Biennale hail from all corners of visual and performance arts, but this year the curatorial team have invited participation from its largest ever collective of West Australian First Nations and non-Indigenous artists.
CROSSING 21 will be articulated through a series of 18 immersive, large-scale, site-responsive artworks and performances, each aiming to facilitate new conversations and share collective stories. 15 of the 18 artworks and performances will be presented in part or in full by West Australian artists and collectives.
The event will champion emerging digital mediums including Australia’s largest ever drone light demonstration which will see a fleet of 160 drones take flight over the bilya (river) and wardan (ocean). The headline work Moombaki – led by emerging Nyoongar artist Ilona McGuire & Elders and supported by the Minderoo Foundation, the Australian Government’s RISE fund, and Global Unmanned Systems (GUS) – will be a first of its kind show to be presented in Western Australia. An epic spectacle of light, movement and sound will transform the night sky, pioneering new sustainable technologies to tell ancient and living stories of place.
Mùller said the biennial festival of site-responsive contemporary art aims to reveal, interrogate, and celebrate the cultural, social and historical distinctiveness of the Walyalup (Fremantle) area, while making art openly accessible for all. “In a time of health, social, economic, and environmental crisis, CROSSING 21 looks to art as a form of connection. The Fremantle Biennale is free for all to attend and enjoy. It is an occasion for you to experience innovative, thought-provoking contemporary artwork set against some of Fremantle’s most iconic locations. Through a series of site-responsive artworks informed by co-design and collaboration, we hope to create tangible opportunities for new ideas, for history to be re-examined and for change to start to emerge.”