Until the 26th of September 2020 you can conduct your own reading at the biennale installation at Carriageworks. Onsite there is an installation of unbound booklets from the production of NIRIN NGAAY – you can take a selection and do your own reading. Go visit!

Reading NIRIN: Andrew Rewald

In this video, Andrew Rewald reads 'On the Movement of Plants' from NIRIN NGAAY. Watch here

Reading NIRIN: Karla Dickens

Karla Dickens reads her contribution, 'Ready, Willing and Able'. Watch here

Reading NIRIN: Gladys Milroy

In this video, Gladys Milroy reads her story, 'The Black Feather'. Watch here

Reading NIRIN: Jessyca Hutchens

In this video, Jessyca Hutchens introduces us to the book. Watch here

Printed matter & NIRIN publications

Stuart Geddes and Trent Walter speak with Brook Andrew about their own artistic processes in printed matter and how they came to collaborate and produce two publications for NIRIN. The two publications, the exhibition catalogue NIRIN (edge) and the 'reader' NIRIN NGAAY (see the edge) were created in collaboration with (editors) Jessyca Hutchens (Assistant Curator to the Artistic Director) and Brook Andrew. Watch here

An artist’s book by Stuart Geddes and Trent Walter.
Edited by Jessyca Hutchens, Brook Andrew, Stuart Geddes and Trent Walter.
Commissioned for the 22nd Biennale of Sydney.

The Biennale of Sydney team and authors of this publication acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation; the Boorooberongal people of the Dharug Nation; the Bidiagal, Dharawal and Gamaygal people, on whose ancestral lands and waters NIRIN gathers.

NIRIN is a safe place for people to honour mutual respect and the diversity of expression and thoughts that empower us all.

NIRIN NGAAY is a compilation, a collection, a volume, an Artist Book, a Reader, an artwork, a sprawling, excessive heterogenous space of connections. Published as part of the 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020), titled NIRIN, A Wiradjuri word meaning ‘edge’, this book is a space where ideas, themes, research, and experiments arising out of NIRIN find places on pages. Traversing many disciplines and forms, encompassing new and previously published works, complete works as well as excerpts and fragments and responses, each piece may ask for new modes of reading and seeing. Instead of disorienting, we see many lines darting and weaving across these works, beautiful moments of syncing and overlap, affective and abstract resonances, moments of density, as well as pauses to breathe deeply. Read and see and touch at random or with resolve – we hope that you will appreciate the way these works unfold and twist together, creating movements of meaning between them. ‘NGAAY’ is a Wiradjuri word meaning ‘see.’ To really see ‘edges’, might also be to sense and feel and trace them, they come into view with clarity, hover in the periphery, or drift away like memories.

Buy the book

Copies of NIRIN NGAAY can be purchased at the
Biennale of Sydney Shop

Book credits

First published in 2020 by the Biennale of Sydney Ltd.

Published with generous support from Aesop and the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.

This publication is copyright and all rights are reserved. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced or
communicated to the public by any process without prior written permission of the copyright holder.

© Biennale of Sydney Ltd
All texts and artworks © the author or artist.

Published for the exhibition the 22nd Biennale of Sydney: NIRIN, 14 March – 8
June 2020.

ISBN: 978-0-9578023-9-1

Biennale of Sydney
Chief Executive Officer: Barbara Moore
Artistic Director: Brook Andrew
Editors: Jessyca Hutchens, Brook Andrew, Stuart Geddes and Trent Walter
Publications team: Sebastian Henry-Jones, Liz Malcolm and Jodie Polutele

Designed, typeset and printed by Stuart Geddes and Trent Walter on a Heidelberg GTO 52. Some sections printed by Printgraphics and Newsprinters.

The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Biennale of Sydney.

Biennale of Sydney Ltd
Level 4
10 Hickson Road
The Rocks NSW 2000

Film credits

Director & Producer
Amy Browne

Amy Browne
Jason Heller

Jaime Snyder

Sound by
Jaime Snyder
Ben Coe

Nirin Ngaay


Translated from Portuguese into English by Jéssica Oliveira


Without fully understanding the contours, I exploded to the outside and beyond, turning the guts of the planet inside out. I was fire first, and then gas. A rain precipitated my fall and, without even having actual eyes, I saw a cordillera of dark flesh materialising itself in a hollow of world.

Each gram of my weight was imbued with memory. I knew of wars, of catastrophes, and of death. I could measure the extent of human despair, and the set of wounds of the world upon which I was falling was transcribed in the most intimate cavities of the earth that I was. But there was no time, and that was not my past, for when I was born, nothing preceded me, neither had I predated anything.

Then, like a rash, I saw a bush spreading out on the planet’s skin. The barks of the trees emerged first, along with the colours I saw growing outward and inward, like layers of thick information digging deep, like fingers and fists, in a consensual penetration, digging into the surface of the planet an unsuspected depth.

In my non-formness, I felt everything and I spread myself all over. I was rouge and clumsy, like a replicating force, multiplying myself through the pathways without society, in the spans and lofts of this earth without world that was my body, this body of flesh and earth, of water and ore, cooking fully in the tripe, without end or beginning, of the planet.


The siren of the wave of terror woke me up before four am and a raw despair passed through my flesh.

When I opened my eyes, I felt my body immobilised, as if it had been hit by an electrical discharge. Before I could recapitulate what I was dreaming about, I mobilised all of my concentration to dismantle the paralysis. From that moment until the next siren, if I was lucky, it would be eight minutes, and I needed at least three to be able to recover my movements.

The vibration of the earth warns me of a patrol of combat dogs performing their hunting rituals a few miles from here. If something or someone in danger tried to flee through the surroundings of my location, I would also be in danger. Dread hit my stomach and I had to shift the attention of my arms to control an urge to vomit that rushed through my inner tubes and threatened to drown me if I hadn’t moved.

I was lying on my back, on a sandbar, in a region of desert dunes between the ocean and the remains of an old Atlantic rainforest reserve.

After containing the vomit, I concentrated back on the arms, trying to extract from the paralysis, small movements of the fingers, first. I knew I was not able to start running early enough to get away from there before being hit by the next siren; so I decided to dig. If I hid under the earth, the waves of terror would only stun some of my sensors, holding my ability to react without, however, paralysing me.

At that moment, it was the patrol that scared me the most, so I let some of my tactile sensors focus on the vibration of the earth while the others worked to bring back to my body the ability to take action. As soon as hands and forearms were released from the paralysis, I began to dig; the rest of the body loosened as I plunged into the dune.

I did not count how much time it took me to bury my whole body, but I sensed the sirens would come soon, and a second after closing the hole, they screamed…

This one lasted longer than usual.

Though stunned by the effects of the wave, I dug as deep as I could, non-stop, plunging deep into the sandbar, hoping that my hormonal mark would not be captured by the patrol. I knew that with my body burning because of the extreme amount of biochemical changes I had been working on, my presence was detectable from afar by the new recognition system recently incorporated by the patrols.

And even though there, beneath the earth, I had some advantage, I would never be able to escape the occasional onslaughts of an entire patrol. In the state of the transition I was in, it was not yet possible for me to simply undo and spread my body through the earth. That’s why I rushed to get deeper and deeper.


I became aware of my first transition around 2017.

Back then, many of us had the impression that things would change for the better, although we were also paying attention to the persistence of the systems of control and to the political murder directed at us.

Those were ambivalent times. We occupied contradictory spaces, in a permanent tension between subject and object positions, between access and exclusion, between the affirmation of life and the imposition of death. For many of us, the only way to be born at that time was still by making a pact with death.

I could not predict where that would end up, but I knew well the point of departure: a wild flight from the compulsory masculinity that the cisgender fundamentalism had inscribed violently upon my body.

The experimentation with hormones only began some years later. First with a regular cocktail, combining estrogen and testosterone blockers, which allowed my body to undergo a more radical transformation at the molecular level, as well as my perception and sensitivity, at the emotional level, underwent affective and intellectual changes.

Accessing the hormones, however, had become more strictly regulated by instances of biochemical control.

The rise of the CISTEM, in the field of institutional politics, opened the way to the approval of noxious laws, such as the Compulsory Detransition for trans people without an “official” diagnosis and that of Renaturalization, imposed on those diagnosed as “real transexuals”. These laws also entailed the implementation of microchips, which were actually behaviour regulators, as well as violent procedures such as involuntary sterilisation and the installation of hormonal marks through which biopolice could check whether the hormone rates of a given body were in agreement with the medical and legal statements registered for that same body.

Bodies not authorised for transition, or bodies whose hormonal diets did not obey the designs of fundamentalist medicine, were confined in prison institutions where they underwent biochemical and surgical processes of forced detransition.

Many of us have died at the hands of the soldiers of the fundamentalist medical order, and those of us who have not been caught, have had to learn to exist in the zones of non-existence imposed by this regime, hacking our hormonal marks with undetectable or almost undetectable substances, discovering and experimenting with new forms of biochemical transition, going far beyond what the pharmaceutical industry of the CISTEM had instituted as a formula.


I woke up today not knowing which year it is.

Once more I dreamed that I was a planet, and a giant metal nozzle invaded my sore flesh. These new hormones must have been transitioning me too rapidly, and maybe those dreams were a way of warning my body of their new dynamics.

It has already been two days since the last wave of terror.

It was the first time that I had experienced a certain form of calmness, as if that time without discharges of dread and despair had allowed me to rest from the exhaustive routine that the flight imposed upon me.

I decided to take a crack at a flight and get the hell out of the dune. I mapped coordinates, always paying attention to the vibrations of the earth and to what they told me regarding the demography of that area. I did not want to cross anybody who put me in danger, whether by attacking or simply by attracting too much attention recklessly.

I identified the top of a mountain and, after coming as close as it was possible to its base, I started to dig upwards. I deviated from some rocks, picking up some roots untied from their plants and lost in the vastness of the earth and sand of that mountain, rising until arriving at a place where I felt that I could leave without danger.

Direct contact with air filled up my lungs, making me feel a form of pleasure as genuine as my thirst. The biochemical changes that I was undergoing allowed me to hydrate my body without necessarily having to drink water, but my mouth was missing the liquid flowing on my tongue, teeth, and running down my throat.

Since the drought of all rivers in 2039, it was impossible to find drinkable water on the surface of the earth. Based on an ancient Krenak knowledge, some of us believed in the hypothesis that they had hidden themselves inside the earth; but with the intensification of drilling for oil, minerals and water, we also began to believe in the imminent extinction of underground reservoirs.

Then, a distant explosion filled the ambience with sound and anxiety. I looked in the direction of the noise and saw one of the CISTEM’s marine bases burning.

Was that an accident? Or a planned action? If someone or something had done that… would it have been one of us? I wanted to believe so! I needed to believe so! It’s been so long since I’ve felt hope…

It did not last long, though. A new wave of terror was activated in the aftermath of the explosion.

I felt my body twisting with pain and despair, I thought I was going die due to the intensity of that feeling. Once I regained some of my composure, the paralysis was already gone; but I was detained, something constrained me and I could not even see what.


The giant metal drill moved forward and deep. The brutal
noise as well as the sharp vibration from the extraction
sank into the skeleton of the planet. I was oil, the invaded land, the metal of the drill. And I was stunned by the pain of it all.

Suddenly, I noticed that the earth around me was boiling and that the fire was spreading inside of it. I let myself then drown in that sensation. The planet was vibrating tensely, in a counter-ecstasy, before the metal’s onslaughts against the earth.

Little by little, I realised that I was sweating. A Lot. I also felt that I was getting dry at a frightening speed.

In so far as I reconnected with my body, my sensors were still so stunned that I could swear I was engulfed by an infinite wave of terror. Terror and tension. I could not even be sure where I was exactly. I felt stuck, but I was not able to identify the moorings.

Was there anyone watching me? Where was I? Who or what had caught me on that mountain?

Oddly and gradually, I began to see running water surrounding me. I subtly had the impression that my location was somewhere on the bottom of the earth, beyond the oceanic line. If there was water there, maybe the rivers have indeed hidden themselves beneath the surface.

But how had I gotten here? And where was I? My sensors were still not fully responding to my consciousness, but I could already discern some signs.


I felt like I was everywhere. At the same time, it was as if I was nowhere.

With all senses permeated by the earth, but still unable to perceive where I was, I tried with all my strength to catch signals, frequencies, and information about that explosion in the sea.

In the middle of the sea!!! There, where the bases of the CISTEM were sheltered from the onslaughts of the earth. The cost of the supposed stability of these bases had been precisely the radical sterilisation of marine life.

The cisgender fundamentalism saw any form of life that was not limited to its world project as a threat. The entire coast had therefore been deliberately contaminated, and everything was now taken up by microplastics and a species of fungus whose function was precisely to perpetuate the death of the marine ecosystem.

This process began circa ten years ago, as a reaction to the new forms of transition that started circulating among trans folk. We were coming upon more and more hormonal devices, which allowed radical processes of dematerialisation, species transition and integration with the elements of the Earth.

Many of us were giving up humanity in favour of the possibility of becoming earth. It was an experimental procedure and it took a long time until these forms of transition started making sense.

In 2033 the first attack of the earth on the bases of the CISTEM happened. A tremor dismantled a prison facility under construction. The newscasts announced it as a natural phenomenon. Indeed, it was just later on that we allowed ourselves to recognise that the occurrence was no coincidence.

From then on, the attacks multiplied. Detention centres, forced detransition clinics, manners schools, military bases and financial centres were, one by one, being overthrown, engulfed, imploded, buried and surrounded.

When I decided to begin my transition towards earth, the CISTEM had already began its process of occupation and control of the coast, moving its bases, and soon, also its cities to floating islands with no direct contact with the continent.

It had also multiplied the extraction machines – remotely controlled from the sea bases – their purpose was basically to impoverish the earth in order to make its attacks against the CISTEM less efficient.

The murders and detransitions kept on… Now also against new forms of trans lives. The persecution of the earth was done coextensively with the persecution of trans bodies, just as the struggles of trans bodies, each day, also became coextensive with the struggles of the earth.

The continent had become a fugitive earth, surrounded by a sea killed by the cisgender fundamentalist world’s project. All the living beings that used to inhabit it were somehow running from the patrols commanded by the CISTEM, seeking shelter beneath the earth, and trying to find ways to survive and preserve their knowledge and communities despite the regime’s totalitarian onslaughts.

With the displacement to the sea, it has become almost impossible for the resistance to consistently reach the CISTEM’s infrastructure. Here and there it was possible to register punctual attacks to some patrols, destruction of giant extraction machines, but nothing that sharply and permanently damaged the bases of the cisgender fundamentalism that ruled the world.

If it really had been the result of an attack rather than an accident, that explosion opened up a new range of possibilities for intervention in the fundamentalist regime.

But how? Which new forces were at stake? With which effects and risks? And how could it make life recirculate among those of us who were confined in the CISTEM’s material and symbolic prisons? I could feel the earth vibrating with each one of my questions, as if we were thinking together.

Or maybe it was only me vibrating with the earth’s questions. Or maybe, at that moment, my transition had come to the point in which I was nothing. And by being nothing, I could finally be anything. And everything.


A previous version of this text in Portuguese was published in 2018 by Jornal Nossa Voz (Casa do Povo, São Paulo, Brazil) as Jota Mombaça, O NASCIMENTO DE URANA. https://casadopovo.org.br