Ballarat International Foto Biennale reveals 2021 program, comprising 260 artists across 100 venues

Ballarat International Foto Biennale reveals 2021 program, comprising 260 artists across 100 venues

The Beatles at Abbey Road, London in 1969 - by Linda McCartney, cropped
Words by Talia Rinaldo

Tickets are on sale now.

One of Australia’s most significant arts festivals, the Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BIFB), has revealed its full 2021 festival program, comprising 260 artists across 100 venues.

Running from Saturday August 28, the annual event will this year include 25 Australian premieres, a world premiere, public art, projections, curator and artist talks, award announcements, foto walks, and food and drink experiences, providing regional Victoria with an incredible, immersive photographic experience.

What you need to know

  • The Ballarat International Foto Biennale has revealed its full 2021 program
  • The arts festival will take over galleries, cafes, bars and laneways across Ballarat
  • It all goes down from Saturday August 28 until Sunday October 24

Keep up with all the latest arts news, reviews and interviews here.

At the centre of the 2021 program is the previously-announced Australian premiere and exclusive of the Linda McCartney: Retrospective, encompassing more than 200 photographs by the world-famous photographer.

Curated by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney, the retrospective offers an intimate look into the life of the McCartney family along with photographs of the ’60s music scene, and a series of never-before-seen prints from McCartney’s time in Australia.

In an Australian exclusive, We will all eventually return to the earth brings together contemporary First Nations artists who interrogate notions of colonisation, ownership and cultural legacy through the photographic medium.

Featuring work by Edith Amituanai, Nathan Beard, Arini Byng, Dennis Golding, Janna Ireland, Katayoun Javan, Meryl McMaster, Sara Oscar, SLIPPAGE, Fiona Pardington and Damien Shen, the exhibition presents works that challenge the Western history of photography.

Premiering for the first time to the world, Styx sees French artist Alix Marie delve further into her interest in water deities, and the intersection between the body, its representation, and an expansive idea of photography.

Co-commissioned by the Ballarat International Foto Biennale and Photoworks, this new work sees the artist using largescale cyanotypes, sound and video to create an immersive installation exploring the fragility of the contemporary world order. Conceived during the height of the pandemic in Europe, the work also references the fragility of the body.

Notes from a Queer Mystic celebrates Steven Arnold, a quintessential icon ahead of his time and a revolutionary figure whose ideas and legacy have become strongly relevant in the cultural conversation of today. Curated by Sarina Meuleman and Fiona Sweet, this exclusive comprises Arnold’s images of creatures of beauty and elegance, intricacy and identity.

An especially poignant exhibition this year will be Number One, an exhibition paying tribute to music icon Michael Gudinski. In this Australian exclusive, we’ll see images from Australian music photographers who have submitted photographs capturing artists under the Mushroom Group and Frontier Touring banner. An ode to Michael Gudinski, whose passion for music was legendary, this exhibition celebrates his advocacy for the arts.


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Other program highlights include Raining Embers, made in response to the devastating Australian bushfires of 2019-2020. Raining Embers examines the global climate crisis through the lens of Aletheia Casey, Gideon Mendel, Ruth Maddison and Rachel Mounsey who depict the devastation and despair of communities that were taken by the wildfires.

Then there’s The Poverty Line which sees artists Chow and Lin (Stefen Chow and Huiyi Lin) use the universal lens of food to examine the daily choices faced by those living on the poverty line; and 24HRS in Photos, which responds to the ongoing and ubiquitous overload of images, exploring our evolving relationship with photography during a globalised, hypermediated era in contemporary society.

As part of the annual event, there’s also a free Outdoor Program which features a world of curated exhibitions, including Aïda Muluneh’s The World Is 9, taking over Sturt Street. Infused with theatricality and imagination, Muluneh’s vibrant and symbolic images express an adornment for Ethiopian culture whilst also challenging the Western stereotypical perception of Africa.

Elsewhere in the Outdoor Program, Say it with Flowers will come to the Ballarat Cemetery; Unfamiliar Wilds takes over McKenzie Street, while Bridge Hall will be the home of Mass Isolation Australia.

That’s barely scraping the surface of the brilliant events and exhibitions set to take over Ballarat from August to October, with live music, talks, curated walks, and a digital program also prepared for the festival.


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The 2021 Ballarat International Foto Biennale runs from Saturday August 28 until Sunday October 24. Head to the BIFB website for more info.