2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres

Featuring the latest works of art by leading contemporary artists from all corners of the country, the Adelaide Biennial is defined by experimentation and an expansive vision. Since 1990, the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art has created career-defining opportunities for more than 350 artists and presented to almost one million visitors. In 2020, the Adelaide Biennial celebrates a 30-year milestone as the nation’s longest-running curated survey of contemporary Australian art.

The Adelaide Biennial is the register of the new, the enduring and the urgent. Monster Theatres proposes an arena of speculation, a circus of the unorthodox and the absurd, a shadow play between truth and fiction. The title is inspired by a group of provocative Australian artists. Their urgent works of art are warnings made manifest. These theatres are theirs.

The Adelaide Biennial provide platforms for exceptional Australian artists to create new shape-shifting forms across a range of mediums, materialities and technologies. The exhibition will be populated by duplicitous robots, toxic goddesses and impossible chimeras. You will be taken behind the scenes, beckoned on underwater odysseys, or invited to slumber with live bees.

2020 Adelaide Biennial Artists
Abdul Abdullah (NSW) Aphids(TAS) Mike Bianco (WA) Polly Borland (VIC) Michael Candy (QLD) Megan Cope (VIC) Erin Coates and Anna Nazzari (WA) Julian Day (NSW) Karla Dickens (NSW) Mikala Dwyer (VIC) Brent Harris (VIC) Aldo Iacobelli (SA) Pierre Mukeba (SA) David Noonan (VIC) Mike Parr (NSW) Julia Robinson (SA) Yhonnie Scarce (SA/VIC) Garry Stewart and Australian Dance Theatre (SA) Stelarc (VIC) Kynan Tan (NSW) Mark Valenzuela (SA) Willoh S. Weiland (TAS) Judith Wright (QLD)

Key Dates

Adelaide Biennial Events

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detail: Stelarc, Australia, born 1946, StickMan / miniStickMan, 2019, IOTA Institute, Halifax, Nova Scotia, installation; Courtesy the artist, photo: Steven Alyian.

'The monstrous, the abnormal, has become mundane. The body has become this contemporary chimera of meat, metal and code. The body you are born with is most likely not be the body you die with. Your face transplant, twin-turbine heart, 3D-printed kidney, carbon-fibre prosthetic hand and neural implant augment and extend your lifespan. The dead, the brain dead, the undead, the yet to be born, synthetic life and machine life all exist proximal to other bodies, microbial life and viral code. The monstrous is not what you imagined.'


Erin Coates; photo: Saul Steed.

'The monster reflected in my recent work is a monster of human origins, it grows inside of us, as an unrecognisable part of ourselves. It is the monster within, the monster that lurks in the id. Aren’t the most terrifying monsters those lingering in the uncanny valley, human but not human?'

Erin Coates and Anna Nazzari

detail, photo: Saul Steed.

'The Monster for me are the warning signs that reveal themselves whilst the Colonial Beast chews the fat of the land, the warnings and aberrations are audible but located far from any centre of the so called civilized.'

Megan Cope

Abdul Abdullah, Australia, born 1986, Understudy, 2019; Courtesy the artist and Yavuz Gallery.

'My monster threatens from the horizon: a phantom in the imagination of a complicit majority. It waits in the wings; eager to participate in societal discourse, while being actively excluded. It’s the scapegoat for the anxieties of a society that jealously guards a self-perception that hasn’t come to terms with its foundations. The humanity of my monster is rejected, because by affording it this privilege we see ourselves reflected, and this concession makes us accountable.'

Abdul Abdullah

Willoh Weiland; photo: Saul Steed.

The monster is THE PATRIARCHY. A monster that doesn't know it's a monster is the saddest and most sinister kind.'

Willoh S. Weiland

still: Kynan Tan, Australia, born 1988, Production (smart phone assembly), 2019, Sydney, computer-generated simulation, 5 channel video and sound, dimensions variable; © Kynan Tan/Dominik Mersch Gallery.

'There is a monster that hides at the conjunction of technology and humans. The movement of data is monstrous - an enormous, unseen spectre, dark and ominous.'

Kynan Tan

Mike Bianco with his beehive; photo: Emily Brink.

'My monster is Homo Apis, the chimeric form of human and honeybee bound in the spectre of ecological collapse. It embodies the deeply enmeshed ecological relationship we have with the more-than-human world, and troubles our sense of hubris which places us as a species at the centre of the universe.'

Mike Bianco

Aldo Iacobelli; photo: Saul Steed.

'My monster is INTOLERANCE. Because it has been adopted by Fundamentalism, to exploit and exacerbate the natural fear of difference.'

Aldo Iacobelli

Julia Robinson with her work Beatrice, 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; photo: Saul Steed.

'The monsters in my work tap into broader themes of growth, regeneration, mutation and decay. The work also speaks to the notion of the monster as a conduit for fear and desire as well as the history of the ‘dangerous woman’ in literature.'

Julia Robinson

photo: Judith Wright.

'My monster is my imagination - it is ever present and will not be subdued!'

Judith Wright

Garry Stewart and Australian Dance Theatre, Australia, founded 1962, Supernature, 2019, performance, Courtesy Australian Dance Theatre, Adelaide, photo: Sam Roberts.

'My monster is the human body. For centuries in the West we have internalised classical depictions of the male body culminating in the symbol of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man as the archetype of humanity - male, fit, upright, white, bipedal, flawless. This dominant image underscores patriarchal structures and codes of behaviour at the exclusion of all others. It has served to support colonisation and capitalism which, as we know, are violent systems built upon hierarchy and marginalisation. This idea of humanity is implicit in the destruction of nature and the unquestioned domination of humans over the natural world. My monster re-configures the morphology and behaviour of the human, manifesting an image of symbiotic integration between multiple bodies into a cooperative whole.'

Garry Stewart

photo: Nathaniel Mason.

'My monster is other people. I’m attracted to and afraid of them at the same time. I grew up as the only child of a single mum, moving from one rented home to another, which meant long periods in my room, taking walks, listening to music and reading. Other kids seemed a bit like ghosts, their communal games, connections and, at worst, mob tendencies – mysterious and unknowable. Just as I’d learn the rules, we’d move to another town in some other state. I developed great skills at adapting, but had a sense of social abstraction and a recurrent distrust of peers and their tribes. I’m left with a huge curiosity about their games, their bonds, their wonders and their horrors.'

Julian Day


Lindsay Ferris Head of Communications, Art Gallery of South Australia
ferris.lindsay@artgallery.sa.gov.au | +61 8 8207 7156 | +61 405 046 116

Presented in association with the Adelaide Festival, with generous support from the Australia Council for the Arts, the Adelaide Biennial Ambassadors Program and The Balnaves Foundation.