Biennale of Sydney - Introduction to Philip Beesley

(6pm 30 June 2012, City Recital Hall)

Thank you Marah Braye, CEO, Biennale of Sydney and good evening, everyone. Welcome to the 18th Biennale of Sydney keynote address. I would like firstly to acknowledge the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the traditional custodians of our land, and to pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who call our city home.

Welcome to the Recital Hall with its wonderful bird song installation. I'd like to acknowledge our speaker tonight Philip Beesley and Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster, Co-Artistic Directors of the 18th Biennale of Sydney.

As we celebrate the organisation's 39th year, it is a source of some pride that we can see the Sydney Biennale continue in the innovative spirit that has been its hallmark from the beginning.

And it is a source of great pleasure to see that it continues to expand its reach, with over half a million people coming to the last Biennale - a 19 per cent increase on previous attendances.

This year, it is once again introducing a new venue in the Carriageworks at Redfern, where where Ann Veronica Janssens' art installation last night made its debut.

This year, more than 100 artists and collaborators from over 40 countries are represented, almost half of whom have created works specifically for Sydney, and the talks program will involve more than 70 curators, artists and writers from around the globe.

Among them, of course, is tonight's keynote speaker, Philip Beesley.

It is a great pleasure to welcome him. He is - as someone once put it - "an architect by profession, and an artist by calling". Though perhaps some architects in the audience may objection to that distinction!

His architectural practice encompasses residential and commercial work, stage design and public buildings, with a particular affinity for community arising from his experience as an activist and organiser.

He is an influential teacher, being Professor in the School of Architecture at Cambridge, Ontario, and a prolific author. He is also co-director of the Integrated Centre for Manufacturing, Visualisation and Design in Ontario, a company which researches architectural materials, particularly light-weight mesh that is inspired by weaving and organic structures.

Philip Beesley's installations explore the complex relationships between nature and human artifice, developing environments that have almost living qualities.

In 2010, he transformed the Canadian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale into an environment variously described as "a fragile artificial forest" and "akin to a coral reef".

In experimenting with responsive environments, he pushes the boundaries of what architecture might be and of how we might inhabit and interact with our living spaces.

Philip has exhibited widely - from Copenhagen to Madrid to New York, and of course now in Sydney for this 18th Biennale and in 1995, he won the Prix de Rome [pree de rom] Architecture award.

He is, above all, a thinker and explorer, and as such, he is a most welcome voice at the 2012 Biennale of Sydney. Please join with me in welcoming him here.

I'll hand over now to Gerald McMaster to make the introduction….