Tonight i’ve just finished a book that has made me a happy reader for several weeks now. Neal Stephenson’s Anathem is a big tome, and i haven’t rushed it – for several reasons – so it has occupied me for a long time. Anathem is one of those fictions that creates a world i was happy to linger in; and then it was often dealing with ideas [frequently to do with logic, science and parallel and intersecting cosmi] that tended to tax my brain. So i read slowly. Fraa Erasmus’ tale is hugely interesting, so if you like ideas, science, history of thought & ideas, science fiction, and human nature this is a book for you.
My finishing Anathem was further delayed by our visit to Sydney – this was not the small book to take on the plane. We were in Sydney for a week in the middle of July, and as ever enjoyed our time there. Familiar stuff: caught up with friends – usually meeting up to eat or have coffee with them – or both. Had some good food – especially at LL a new, small cafe & Chinese restaurant in Kings Cross J. introduced us to. It’s run by 3 good-looking brothers and they have an excellent chef who produces some superb food – amongst the best Chinese food we’ve eaten. We shopped a bit; walked a way round the north harbour bays; checked out some of our favourite haunts; and enjoyed the surprise of being amongst the 17th Sydney Biennale.
We didn’t even know Sydney has an art biennale – and this was the 17th! – i guess because we’ve not been in Sydney at that time of year before. And had not seen any reference to it when we were searching for things we might want to do or see before we went. But our hotel had left a copy of Time Out Sydney in our room and we found an article there about the event. The Biennale invites artists from all over the world and their works are displayed in several places around the city – both major art galleries, Botanic Gardens, Opera House – and in the now disused engineering and prison buildings on Cookatoo Island. We’d never been to this island before – it’s further up the harbour. First a prison, later dockyards and engineering works it is now disused and the buildings are slowly falling into ruin – some roofless, some empty, some with bits of machinery still in place. The art – paintings, photos, sculpture, videos – is just installed with little preparation of the spaces and so the contrast is often as interesting as the works themselves. We saw some very good stuff and quite a lot we thought was a waste of time or pretensious nonsense. The most impressive were a stunning video projection in a large circular space on 9 screens of quite stunningly gorgeous pictures recreating a contemporary version of Trimalchio’s Feast from the Roman Petronious’ Satyricon by the Russian quartet AES+F; a suspended arc of 9 cars each with a star-burst of long iron rods pierced through them and lit with chasing LEDs to give the effect of a car exploding and flying through the air; a huge stainless-steel brain dendron on the lawn in front of the contemporary art gallery; a room with a copse of aboriginal wooden memorial poles [larrakitj] exquisitely, beautifully decorated. Seeing all this was a considerable treat.