No Ruins: Demolition and Urban Modernity at the 21st Biennale of Sydney
Presented across multiple venues from 16 March to 11 June 2018, the 21st Biennale of Sydney was the first iteration in this long-running contemporary art event to engage an Artistic Director from Asia. While the curatorial preoccupations of Mami Kataoka were diverse and open-ended, this review essay is concerned with the traces of vanished or disappearing architecture that were woven across this year’s event and, notably, the issues raised by two installations engaged specifically with the demolition of post-independence architecture. Without doubt the precarity of modern architectural heritage is a global problem. Yet the artworks from Sa Sa Art Projects, presented by the Stiev Selapak collective of Phnom Penh, as well as the paintings and sculptures of New Dehli artist, Tanya Goel, revealed the extent to which an ambivalent relationship to twentieth-century European modernist design legacies combined with accelerated urban redevelopment poses unique conservation challenges in the postcolonial cities of South Asia.