Darren Sylvester is a truly multidisciplinary artist who is also an unashamed fan of pop music.His love of the genre is sincere and fanatic; so much so that, in 2008, he spent four months producing and performing an album of pop songs, teaching himself how to sing, play guitar and drums, record and mix. Having previously paid homage to Kate Bush (You should let go of a dying relationship 2006) and The Carpenters (I was the last in the Carpenters’ garden 2008), he cites significant admiration for the 1960s American girl group The Shangri-Las alongside Morrissey, the singer and lyricist from the 1980s British indie band The Smiths, for the way that their upbeat, catchy music shares with us stories of pain and tragedy.
Morrissey once said that he has ‘a dramatic, unswayable, unavoidable obsession with death’. The same could be said of Sylvester whose work (across photography, sculpture, video and installation) presents much like a shiny pop song—with a polished story, direct and to the point—yet simmering with levels of complexity that do not shy away from the undeniability of our mortality. There are three standalone works by Sylvester included in the Biennial that, together, ruminate on the transience of life. The first is Transformer 2020, a steel archway with cool, blue neon lights that flicker as you pass underneath. The sculpture is a fantastical portal to nowhere and appears as if it was stolen from the set of a science fiction film based on a spaceship. The second work is Seance 2021, a large-scale photograph depicting a group of people seated around a table, their eyes closed and holding hands, in a moment of collective reverie. The final work, Kite 2021, features a kite suspended from the ceiling that traverses the gallery on a mechanical circuit. Rather than a graceful flight, a series of spokes jerk the kite around the track like a conjured spirit trapped in its ascent.
Sylvester creates with a deft, uncanny touch; in the images and scenes he fashions it always feels as if we are encountering things we have witnessed or experienced before. This is by no means an unconscious strategy—the line between reality and fiction is always intentionally illusory. Sylvester draws upon our common lexicon of emotional affect as learnt through popular culture (Seance could be a scene from the Hollywood film The Craft 1996), but he also shows us that this needn’t be the case (he takes pride in constructing the sets in which his staged photographs take place). Sylvester’s works are seeped with existential yearnings and desires, made to cut through the advertising and entertainment we consume. His inclusion in the Biennial speaks to the individual's transportive powers, permitting us the freedom to let go and float away somewhere else.
 Take, for example, The Shangri-Las’ 1964 hit ‘Leader of the Pack’ which is about a girl who falls in love with the leader of a motorcycle gang. After the girl is forced to break up with her lover due to her parent’s disapproval, he crashes his bike and dies. The subject matter is devastating, yet the song’s upbeat tempo and catchy melodies still somehow manage to make it sound sugary sweet.
 Spin magazine in 1988