2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres

Exhibition season update: The Art Gallery of South Australia is now open. Monster Theatres will be extended until Sunday 2 August. Details are available here

Defined by experimentation and an expansive vision, the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art has created career-defining opportunities for more than 350 artists and presented to almost one million visitors since 1990. 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 exhibition is 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)

Adelaide Biennial at Adelaide Botanic Garden

Mike Bianco's celebrated and critically acclaimed Biennial project Anthrocomb could not be extended past the original closing date of the 2020 Adelaide Biennial. In case you missed the chance to experience Anthrocomb, ​you can find out more about the work here

Visitors are still be able to experience Julia Robinson's Beatrice, Michael Candy's Big Dipper, Mark Valenzuela's Once bitten, twice shy and Yhonnie Scarce's In the Dead House.

installation view: 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres featuring Reclining Stickman by Stelarc, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide;; photo: Saul Steed.

'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 and Anna Nazzari with their work Internal Interior; 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; 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

'Monster Theatres' is irresistible.
- John McDonald, The Sydney Morning Herald

detail, Megan Cope; 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 with his work Understudy, 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; photo: Saul Steed.

'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

Leigh Robb’s absorbing curation, ‘Monster Theatres’, is both artistically and politically coherent
- Miriam Cosic, The Monthly

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

Mike Bianco with his work Anthrocomb, 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres; photo: Saul Steed.

'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

This biennial brings a refreshing pychological depth, reflective gaze and energy to our fears.
- Catherine Speck, The Conversation

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

This is a brave exhibition on many levels. It feels a bit like a slow dance between veiled narratives and the raw and revealed.
- Gina Fairley, ArtsHub

Judith Wright with her work Tales of Enchantment, 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres; photo: Saul Steed.

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

Judith Wright

still: Julian Day, Australia, Hill & Son Organ, 2020 Barossa Regional Gallery; courtesy the Barossa Council South Australia, © Julian Day; 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.