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Art is coming to life in Sydney as more than 140 Australian performers become living sculptures in works by 13 of the world’s leading contemporary artists.

Starting 11 April, the 13 Rooms exhibition comprises of 13 purpose-built rooms on Sydney’s historic Pier 2/3 in Walsh Bay, each containing a performative art exhibit directed by some of the most iconic names in contemporary art, such as Marina Abramovic, John Baldessari, Joan Jonas and Damien Hirst.

Viewers are immersed in the living piece as soon they step through the door of each room. One work by Shanghai-based artist Xu Zhen features a person in the centre of the room tilted at 90 degrees – as if ready to fall but instead frozen in time and space. This work is a meditation on the in-between status of marginalised communities – specifically migrant workers – and performers of this piece are all immigrants. Spanish artist Santiago Sierra’s work features a war veteran standing facing the corner of the room. The man is still and silent – as if positioned in a military line – and will not react to the audience in any way.

Not only is the fascinating interactive art display produced by the Kaldor Public Arts Projects, an organisation that creates imaginative projects in public spaces globally, but it is curated by two of the world’s most respected museum directors: Hans Ulrich Obrist (co-director of London’s Serpentine Gallery) and Klaus Biesenbach (director of New York’s MoMa PS1).

“One of the differentiations of how art is perceived in the 21st Century is that artists want interaction. In the old days people would paint a picture and stick it on the wall,” said John Kaldor, founder of Kaldor Public Arts Projects “Today’s artists want the public to interact.”

Like all Kaldor projects, entry is free. “I believe in free art, always have,” Kaldor said. “Since the very beginning our vision has been to bring the latest of contemporary art to Australia. And so here we have it – a sculpture exhibition where the sculptures go home at night.”

The exhibition runs to 21 April, 11 am to 7 pm.

Tatyana Leonov is the Sydney Localite for BBC Travel

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