5 December - 22 December 2018


Join us on Wednesday 5 December
from 6-8pm for the opening of
Sylvia Schwenk’s latest solo exhibition Connect.

Artist Talk: Saturday 8 December at 1pm.

Screening 15 – 12 December:
1.  ‘what are you scared of?’
2. ‘what do you love the
3. ‘gestures’    

Screening 2, 13-22 December:
1. ‘what makes you happy?’
2. ‘what advice would you give your younger self?’
3. ‘what are your hopes  for the future?’

Sylvia Schwenk is a multi-disciplinary artist who focuses on perspectives of the everyday by reflecting upon the significance and beauty of commonplace activities and spaces through the medium of performance. Themes of community and communication pervade Schwenk’s practice. Her works unite strangers and celebrate peoples’ differences and similarities. Her projects explore issues that are local yet universal.

One of the biggest challenges of our times is isolation, fear and lack of connection with others. Schwenk breaks down barriers by bringing people together to share new experiences and encourages everyday people to become performers. She captures moments, spaces or actions with photographs, films, as text or presented as installations.

‘connect’ presents stories and interactions that build intrigue about who we are and how we relate to one another. The project comprises multi-channel films showing a social and visual portrait of over 160 people –from local communities in the USA (New York City), Spain (Blanca), and Germany (Berlin and  Schöppingen ) – sharing their private stories and thoughts as they answer 5 universal questions asked by the artist:

1. What makes you happy?

2. What are you scared of?

3. What do you love the most?

4.What advice would you give your younger self? 

5. What are your hopes for the future?

1. connect I, Sylvia Schwenk, 2018 1200h

Each of these questions is the subject of its own film. Similar answers and counterpoints are ‘sewn’ together by the artist to build a narrative on humanity.

The participants’ answers and responses transfix us because they are either so relatable – or so un-relatable. Watching and listening to other people allows us to see ourselves in others and by doing so offers us a way to start connecting.

‘connect’ seeks to amplify life. The project celebrates what connects us. Difference is something we all have in common, and ‘connect’ provides a space for people of different ages (3 to 94 years), gender, socio-economic backgrounds, cultures and religions (aethiesm to Islam) to be seen and heard. People are given a voice to tell their own story in the context of answering the 5 universal questions.

Describing the project the artist comments:

“Connection is a fundamental process of being human. It’s a real and tangible force that’s vital to our wellbeing and is necessary for a better world. ‘connect’ seeks to amplify life. It’s about not being afraid of making connections, of not building emotional and physical barriers, of not being afraid of being who we are, and of not being afraid to fully express who we want to be. The project celebrates what connects us – the same but different aspects of ourselves.

The feelings driving the project are true connection and a universal love for others that is simply based upon our shared humanity. These feelings are present in all of the works by virtue of the protagonists’ generosity and honesty, and they are especially present in the film ‘gestures’, where each of us is unconditionally offered feelings of genuine warmth and love by over 160 strangers.

‘connect’ seeks to counter patterns of inward thinking and behaviour. We live in a time of reduced global interconnectivity, with ‘Brexit’, the USA’s ‘American first policy’, an uprising of populist alt-far-right governments and movements in Europe. There is an increasing fear of otherness that is leading a wave of self-focus, alienation, nationalism and violence. In these times the need for people to connect with one another is more relevant and greater than ever before.

The world is full of possibilities. ‘connect’ provides an optimistic possibility, a hope for creating a world of shared humanity.”

Over the last 10 years Sylvia Schwenk has created more than 30 works from international socially engaged projects with over 2,000 people, in everyday situations and spaces as diverse as public areas, prisons, naval bases, football grand finals, public transport, model airplane fields and art institutions with people using their bodies to realise the art.

‘what makes you happy?’ from ‘connect’, 2018, 19 minutes, 49 seconds, single channel HD video, edition of 10.

‘what advice would you give your younger self?‘ from ‘connect’, 2018, 19 minutes, 02 seconds, single channel HD video, edition of 10.

Sylvia is an artist of international standing who performs and exhibits her work in art galleries, international film festivals and spaces in Europe, the USA, Canada, India and Australia. She is the recipient of numerous commissions, awards, grants and scholarships. Her work is held in public and private art collections. Her short films are exhibited and screened internationally. Her works of socially engaged performance art are performed in everyday situations in spaces as diverse as prisons, Naval bases, football grand finals, public transport, model airplane fields and art institutions. Her commissions to create works of performance art include: the Royal Australian Navy (to commemorate the 100th anniversary); Art Fairs (Sydney and Melbourne); Art Month projects (lawns of the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney); and the European Union (on the German and Dutch border).

Sylvia completed her Doctorate at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, Australia. She also studied at the Köln International School of Design and the Universität der Künste Berlin, Germany. She has completed artist residencies with the Künstlerdorf Schöppingen, DE, aadk Blanca, ES, the Academy of the Arts, University of Tasmania, AU, Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney, AU, HMAS Penguin, Sydney, AU, and albb Saigon, VT.Sylvia also presents conference papers and lectures about her research on performance art and her artistic practice internationally.

Sylvia was recently profiled in an in-depth interview for the Biennale edition of Women Cinemakers magazine.

Additional Information

Upcoming Exhibition

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main gallery
Max Lawrence White
3 May - 25 May 2024