Sydney Festival is happening all January—here’s what to see


Sydney Festival is back with new art for the city’s summer crowds. With 100 events across Sydney from 5 -29 January—including 18 world premieres and 14 Australian exclusives throughout 54 venues, from the city centre to Shoalhaven—here are our visual arts highlights, traversing environmental advocacy to diverse storytelling to sparkling seances.

Shoalhaven: Bundanon Art Museum
Siteworks: From a deep valley

Gifted to the Australian people by Arthur and Yvonne Boyd and established in 1993, Bundanon is a centre for creative and scientific research located on 1,000 hectares of bush and parkland overlooking the Shoalhaven River on the NSW South Coast, two and a half hours from Sydney.

Bundanon’s summer program Siteworks: From a deep valley features the major exhibition Inside, underground, as well as a program of outdoor installations, performances and workshops taking place over two weekends in January (from 14-15 and 28-29 January).

An exhibition exploring the concept of interior weather, Inside, undergroundfeatures newly commissioned work of five Australian artists: Carolyn Eskdale, Susan Jacobs, Kate Scardifield, Lucy Simpson, and Isadora Vaughan. Responding to residencies at Bundanon, these artists use repurposed natural materials to reflect the relationship between body and site.

Siteworks: From a deep valley also includes an expanded program of outdoor installations, drop-in workshops, talks and experimental performances including Rebecca Mayo’s activation of her large-scale hand-operated dyeing machine The Plant Sensibilia Machine; the Dirt Witches and Tree Venerators in the ritualistic performance Spells for Weather choreographed by Lizzie Thompson; workshops in cultural immersion and observational drawing, and talks from scientists and researchers on topics including the social impacts of climate change.

Siteworks: From a deep valley at Bundanon Art Museum, 5-29 January, from $12-$18. More information here.

Bundanon. Photo by Zan Wimberley.

Sydney: Barangaroo
Brenda Croft:
Naabami (thou shall/will see): Barangaroo (army of me)

Since the mid-1980s, multidisciplinary creative practitioner Brenda L Croft, of the Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra peoples and of Anglo-Australian/German/Irish/Chinese heritage, has been at the forefront of Australia’s First Nations and broader contemporary cultural sectors. For the Festival, Croft has created Naabami (thou shall/will see): Barangaroo (army of me). 

Presented along the Barangaroo waterfront, the installation will present 60 large-scale photographic portraits made by Croft of contemporary First Nations women and girls between 2019 and 2022. The sitters include Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, environmentalist Lille Madden, and Director First Nations at Powerhouse Emily McDaniel. Some of the participants have sat for Croft more than once over the past three decades, with several generations of families portrayed.

Digitally printed on metal, these strident, pared-back portraits reference the early photographic technique of collodion tintypes. The work honours Cammeraygal woman, Barangaroo (c. 1750 – 1791) a First Nations woman recognised for standing her ground during a time of overwhelming change for the Eora and surrounding clans. The First Nations women and girls portrayed by Croft are contemporary embodiments of Barangaroo, positioned as sentinels along the site named for her in 2007.

Brenda Croft: Naabami (thou shall/will see): Barangaroo (army of me) at Bangaroo, free entry. More information here.

Brenda Croft, McDermott Bebonis Eva 1, 2022

Sydney: Sydney Town Hall
Sun & Sea

In the Lithuanian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019, Sun & Sea, a durational English-language opera written and created by Lithuanian artists Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė and Lina Lapelytė, captivated audiences and ultimately earned the prestigious Golden Lion award for Best National Participation.

The performance, presented in the round, uses the familiar tropes of a leisurely seaside sojourn to approach the theme of climate emergency; disarming with humour rather than didacticism. Having been presented across Europe, North America and the Middle East, for its exclusive Australian presentation at Sydney Festival, Sun & Sea will take on a local flavour, featuring Sydney clubs, choirs and sand in its performance at the Sydney Town Hall. Audiences will occupy the upper balcony of the Hall, looking down on the stage which will be transformed into a sandy imitation indoor beach. Through the course of a languid afternoon, sunbathers sing about the changes they see in the natural world.

Sun & Sea at Sydney Town Hall, 6-8 January, $39 + BF. More information here.

Sun Sea, opera performance by Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Grainytė, Lina Lapelytė at the Teatro Argentina 2021, Rome. Photography Neon Realism © Courtesy of the artists.

Sydney: Carriageworks
The Huxleys: Bloodlines

With a famous camp sensibility embracing glamour, androgyny and escapism, Melbourne-based collaborative duo Will and Garret Huxley work across photography, performance art, costume and film as The Huxleys.

At Carriageworks, The Huxleys present Bloodlines, an expansive exhibition honouring legendary artists lost to the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s. Featuring large-scale photography, music and video art, it’s intended as a “sparkling séance celebrating queer excellence”. The artists being paid tribute to include Leigh Bowery, Robert Mapplethorpe and Keith Haring, with each artist’s culture-shifting works and influence being incorporated into the exhibition via The Huxleys’ signature aesthetic. There’s also an installation that will unfold collaboratively over time, with the community invited to contribute panels which will ultimately be sewn together as a quilt reminiscent of the AIDS Memorial Quilts created during the 1980s and 1990s.

Alongside Bloodlines, Carriageworks will also present a major exhibition by Australian artist Paul Yore, a large-scale mural by Thea Anamara Perkins, and a performance by Speak Percussion.

The Huxleys: Bloodlines at Carriageworks, 5 January – 5 March 2023, free entry. More information here.

The Huxleys, ‘Hibiscus’, 2022 Giclèe Archival Print, 106cm x 106cm.
Feature Words by Chloé Wolifson