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Bonavista Biennale returns for second time

Omar Badrin’s, In my skin, from the 2017 Bonavista Biennale featured dancer Sarah Joy Stoker wearing one of Badrin’s crocheted pieces. Contributed
Omar Badrin’s, In my skin, from the 2017 Bonavista Biennale featured dancer Sarah Joy Stoker wearing one of Badrin’s crocheted pieces. Contributed - Contributed

BONAVISTA PENINSULA, N.L. — The historic and the contemporary are joining forces once again for the second Bonavista Biennale on the Bonavista Peninsula.

With the theme of FLOE, the biennale will feature over 20 different artists and sites that focus on Newfoundland’s connection to movement and flow.

“We’re sort of looking at the coastline and how Newfoundland is an isolated island, but really on the highway to Europe and to the south (and the United States),” says event curator Catherine Beaudette. “So, we were thinking a lot of traffic and mobility of Newfoundlanders.”

Artists include both those with Newfoundland connections and those from other countries and provinces, such as Jamaica-born and Toronto-based Camille Turner, Kym Greeley from St. John’s and Jordan Bennett who lives in Halifax but is from Stephenville Crossing.

“We try to balance it all out, but also have some relation to the theme,” says Beaudette, adding that the 2017 theme focused on Canada 150.

“it’s not just putting together a bunch of artists but putting together artists together who are using these ideas and putting them into different perspectives.”

This year’s sites include Port Union’s Coaker Factory Building, Elliston’s St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Champney’s Cove, and Trinity’ Hiscock House

While the installations and pieces are the artists’ own, locals also have a chance to put a bit of themselves into the event. The biennale hires about 16 full-time employees for its duration.

 “The site attendants get to show off their areas and their culture and the visitors are thrilled to be able to interact in that way,” says Beaudette.

While there are other biennales held around the world, both Beaudette and fellow curator Matthew Hills says Bonavista’s is unique in its own way.

“It’s more distinctly rooted in place, and the sense it’s responding to the history of the peninsula, the people, the architectural heritage,” he says.

He adds that it gives Newfoundland a chance to present itself a bit differently.

“Newfoundland can be quite traditional at time. It’s not conservative, but traditional, and the level of programming and innovation the Bonavista Biennale is doing, it’s just super exciting to have that energy for contemporary art,” he says.

Depending on the installation or piece, they can, sometimes, stick around longer than anticipated. During the 2017 event, Reinhard Reitzenstein planted upside down trees along the causeway.  The trees are still there.

“It’s left because it survived and also it’s natural; it will naturally decay on its own,” says Beaudette, adding that residents like the canopy-like look the trees give off.

All of the exhibits will remain up for the entire event. This way, says Beaudette, it gives visitors a chance to properly explore, discuss and becoming inspired by what they see.

“It’s not like a weekend festival; I call it more of an art event,” she says. “For those who are really interested, you can go back and think about the work; there’s a lot to ponder here.”

The 2019 Bonavista Biennale takes place from Aug. 17 to Sept. 15.

Go online: For more information visit: https://bonavistabiennale.com/

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