Biennale of Sydney Research Symposium: Make it New

Wednesday 21 March, 1.30–5.30pm Powerhouse Museum Book Tickets

Biennale of Sydney and MAAS present Make it New, a research symposium that explores the way artists use existing museum collections to make new work.

Objects have transferable and alternate meanings, imbued with their own or substitute histories and stories. Cultural institutions have unique material legacies and create and nurture collections on behalf of the public. The focus and contents of these collections change over time. Through the act of investigating and responding to collections, artists reframe, rethink, reinterpret and create new ideas and cultural material that reflect their understanding and response to contemporary society at the time of creation. How do these narratives enhance audience engagement, the work of artists, the collections they respond to and the collecting institutions?

In this research symposium, Make it New: Creating contemporary cultural material from collections and archives we invite participating 21st Biennale of Sydney artists Rayyane Tabet and Brook Andrew, Artistic Director Mami Kataoka and Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS) Assistant Curator Vanessa Thorne to explore, via their presentations, reflections on this process for the 21st Biennale of Sydney.

Join the conversation. Use the hashtag #MAASsymp

For enquiries, please contact Sharon Dickson via (02) 9217 0192 or


1.30pm Registration
2pm Acknowledgement of Country and Introduction Peter Denham, Director Curatorial, Collections and Exhibitions Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences (MAAS) co-chaired by Deborah Lawler-Dormer, Research Manager MAAS and Marcus Hughes, Head of Indigenous Strategy & Engagement
2.10pm Keeping it relevant: the MAAS collection Vanessa Thorne, Assistant Curator MAAS
2.30pm Bring Utzon Back Rayyane Tabet, artist featured in 21st Biennale of Sydney
2.50pm Afternoon Tea
3.30pm Action and objects Brook Andrew, artist featured in 21st Biennale of Sydney in conversation with Katie Dyer, Curator Contemporary MAAS
3.50pm Selecting artworks for the 21st Biennale of Sydney that have a basis in ‘research’ Mami Kataoka, Artistic Director of the 21st Biennale of Sydney
4.10pm Discussion, Q&A
5pm Finish



Internationally renowned curator Mami Kataoka is a key figure in analysing socio-historical and generational trends, particularly in the context of Japanese and Asian art, and frequently writes and lectures on contemporary art in Asia. Artistic Director of the 21st Biennale of Sydney, SUPERPOSITION: Equilibrium & Engagement, she has held the position of Chief Curator of the Mori Art Museum (MAM) in Tokyo since 2009, and Senior Curator since 2003. At MAM, Kataoka has curated numerous notable exhibitions including Roppongi Crossing (survey show of contemporary Japanese art) (2004, 2013), Sensing Nature: Perception of Nature in Japan (2010); as well as major survey shows of prominent artists in Asia such as Tsuyoshi Ozawa, Ai Weiwei, Lee Bul, Makoto Aida, Lee Mingwei and N.S. Harsha. In her presentation, Mami Kataoka will discuss a selection of artworks in the 21st Biennale of Sydney that have a basis in ‘research’. Her talk will also show how research processes have been an important part of her curatorial practice in recent years, with reference to exhibitions at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo. For Kataoka, a research-based curatorial practice allows for greater legibility of the cultural, historical and socio-political contexts from which artworks originate.

Rayyane Tabet’s sculptural practice often uses objects as a starting point for the exploration of memory and individual narratives. Attempting to counter official histories, his works explore paradoxes in the built environment and its history, and offer different understandings of major socio-historical events. For the 21st Biennale of Sydney, he has developed a performance that looks at renowned architect Jørn Utzon’s design for Sydney Opera House alongside his unrealised plan to build a subterranean theatre at Jeita Grotto, the limestone caves in Lebanon. Born in Ashqout, Lebanon in 1983, Tabet received a Bachelor in Architecture from The Cooper Union in New York and a Master in Fine Arts from the University of California in San Diego. He is the recipient of the DAAD Artist in Berlin Program in 2016, the Abraaj Group Art Prize in 2013, the Jury Prize of the Future Generation Art Prize in 2012 and the Sharjah Biennial Artist Prize in 2011.

Brook Andrew is an interdisciplinary artist whose multi-layered artworks scrutinise the dominance of Western colonial narratives, locating Australia at the centre of a global inquisition. Drawing inspiration from archival and vernacular objects, Andrew works with different communities, as well as public and private collections, to highlight alternative histories that are hidden beneath the legacies of colonialism. What’s Left Behind, 2018, commissioned for the 21st Biennale of Sydney, comprises five sculptural vitrines that reflect on complex relationship between objects and the meanings that are attributed to them. Andrew invited artists Rushdi Anwar (Kurdistan/Australia), Shiraz Bayjoo (Mauritius/England/Indian Ocean region), Mayun Kiki (Japan) and Vered Snear (Israel/USA), to place artworks and objects selected from the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney, within each of Andrew’s sculptural vitrines. Born in Sydney, Australia in 1970, Brook Andrew’s installations and artworks in the context of history and the archive have been seen in solo and group exhibitions at institutions including Tate Britain, London; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Künstlerhaus, Vienna; National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; and the Jewish Museum, Berlin. He has worked with collections from significant museums and has received numerous fellowships and awards. Brook Andrew will discuss the challenges of incorporating museum objects into artist installations. This process is often experienced through negotiations and sometimes written agreements in order for the plasticity of concepts to come alive. The end result is not always as one imagines.

Vanessa Thorne’s background is in the humanities, education and museum studies. She has wide-ranging interests in the work of Australian applied arts designers, material culture related to social change, Australia’s migration history and fashion and dress. As an Assistant Curator at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), her role encompasses supporting research, collection development, collection access, exhibition and content development and public and education program outputs for MAAS. As part of a team of MAAS staff supporting the development of the What’s Left Behind commission for the 21st Biennale of Sydney, Vanessa will explore some of the process and intricacies in the realisation of the project with reference to MAAS’ multifarious collection of applied arts and sciences. The collection is a unique resource with great scope for multi-way exchanges. Kept alive through interpretation, our understanding and appreciation of material culture is enriched through shared perspectives.

This symposium is held in partnership with the 21st Biennale of Sydney.


Brook Andrew; Splinters of Monuments: A Solid Memory of the Forgotten Plains of our Trash and Obsessions, 2014; wood, paper, glass archival materials; archival collections from the artist, Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid; Museo de América, Madrid; and Museo Nacional de Antopología, Mexico City; Installation view (2014) of ‘Really Useful Knowledge’ at Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid; Courtesy the artist; Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney; and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris and Brussels.


Adult: $45
MAAS Member, Concession, Student, $18

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