Ballarat International Foto Biennale 2021

Book in for a single day or three-day Festival Pass and escape into a world of art and culture throughout Ballarat, Victoria.

After some delays, the Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BIFB) is back on, taking over the galleries, buildings, cafes, walls and streets of Ballarat in regional Victoria, showcasing the photographic art of more than 170 artists with new dates: 23 September to 9 January 2022.

BIFB presents work from emerging and established, domestic and international artists that is new, previously unseen in Australia or contextualised afresh. In 2021, the biennale’s premise ‘Past. Tense. Now.’ reflects recent events. Fiona Sweet, BIFB Artistic Director, said, ‘In the last year, there have been many moments when the past and future seem to collapse and the immediacy of the here and now dominates. We long for a return to the known and imagine what may come next.’ Artists ‘work with the ferociousness of existence, marking the singular moments and ideas that punctuate and transcend time,’ continues Sweet.

Linda McCartney, Paul, Stella and James. Scotland, 1982. Courtesy Ballarat International Foto Biennale, Victoria

The late Linda McCartney bore witness to the evolution of pop and youth culture during her photographic career, which spanned from 1965 to 1997. BIFB presents an Australian premiere, and exclusive run, of ‘Linda McCartney: Retrospective’ at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, encompassing more than 200 images by the world-famous photographer. The exhibition, curated by Paul, Mary and Stella McCartney, offers an intimate look into the life of the McCartney family along with photographs of the 1960’s music, including portraits of Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, and a series of never-before-seen prints from McCartney’s time in Australia.

Additional highlights include Dutch artist, designer and curator Erik Kessels’ Australian premiere of 24HRS in Photos at St Andrew’s Uniting Church. Responding to the ongoing overload of images in contemporary society, Kessels presents viewers with a sea of 350,000 images depicting the sheer weight of our current visual output. While another Australian exclusive, We will all eventually return to the earth, explores how the photographic medium can interrogate notions of colonisation, authorship, ownership and cultural legacy.

Kate Mulvany, Kate Mulvany, Resolute (Kate Mulvany), 2021. BIFB Martin Kantor Portrait Prize Finalist. Photograph: George FettingResolute (Kate Mulvany), 2021. Courtesy Ballarat International Foto Biennale, Victoria

Featuring work by 11 artists, the exhibition challenges the western history of photography. Other shows include expanding conversations surrounding poverty and inequality, the language of architecture and the built environment, the global climate crisis, gender and sexuality, identity and cultural history, as well as the COVID pandemic and concepts of connection and community. The Martin Kantor Portrait Prize returns, recognising an exceptional portrait of a significant Australian. The exhibition, held at Ballarat Town Hall, will present the $15,000 award winner and finalists, and a People’s Choice Award as voted by the public. This year’s festival also sees the second iteration of The Fineman New Photography Award at the Post Office Gallery, which was established to place focus on photographers in the Asia-Pacific region whose work is beginning to receive critical attention.

BIFB will also host a series of public and educational programs, including artist talks, workshops, live music, comedy and theatre, public art, and the Biennale After Dark.