Temporary Art: Sydney's Art & About Festival

James Dive’s latest installation* that appeared in Sydney’s Art and About Festival this year was something of a unique event. Lasting a little over two weeks, Sydney watched as a small white house in Hyde Park was built, filled with the objects of a home, and was then slowly destroyed by an unending rainstorm pouring from the ceiling. The thought of a house raining from within, or more specifically 200 litres of water falling from the ceiling every minute, is something poetic in itself, posing questions of history and heartache, leaving us wondering how this wet little house could be a metaphor for our own lives. The real feature of note is in how it presents the sad cycle of something’s beginning, deterioration, and finally the end, and how all of these moments are in fact temporary.

To keep away from the somewhat melancholic notion that moments in life are of course brief and unable to last forever, we can view this idea in terms of art, and how the idea of ‘temporary’ might actually be a way to sustain creativity and present it in different ways.


A few years back, artist Nele Azevedo used the sun* to create a temporary artwork, and placed one thousand miniature ice humans in a Berlin square. Her intention was not to highlight climate change, but somehow the image of an artwork melting before an audiences eyes created a whole new way to absorb ideas and speak about a piece of art.

Every year at the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, alongside all the sculptures and installations that fill the site, a temple is built in the desert sand, only for it to be destroyed on the last night of the event by fire. At the burn, it is lit up into flames, taking with it the inscriptions and personal thoughts of those who had interacted with it and spent time within it, sending these energies away into ash in a moment of cathartic release; an impossible effect had the structure been built to last forever.


Yet despite these examples, we can also view this sense of the temporary in a less literal sense and know that it does not mean the art has to be destroyed in a symbolic scene for it to be a successful temporary piece of art. The Biennale, an event held every two years all over the world, appears and leaves as soon as it begins, but with it comes a way to engage a larger population within the art world. While there may arguably be an ongoing obsession with big, fantastical artworks to reel in a crowd, there is still much strength in the way in which art becomes accessible to a larger group of people, otherwise distant from the art world.