Working With, and Learning From: Asian and Asian-Australian art, and community impact in Australia

9 December 2021, 3:00:00 am

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Session Convenors

Dr Michelle Antoinette, Monash University

Session Moderators

Dr Michelle Antoinette, Monash University

Session Speakers

Penny Teale, Curator at Bunjil Place Gallery, Narre Warren
Nikki Lam, artist, curator and producer; PhD candidate (Art) at RMIT University
Amrit Gill, Artistic Director/CEO 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

This panel gathers voices from varied contemporary art spaces/artist-run initiatives in Australia that engage closely with Asian and Asian-Australian art and communities, namely: 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, sited on Eora Nation lands in Sydney since 1996; Bunjil Place Gallery, sited on Kulin Nation lands in Melbourne’s south-east since 2017; and the artist-run Hyphenated Projects sited on Kulin Nation lands in Melbourne’s western suburbs, launching its inaugural Hyphenated Biennial in late 2020. For all three art platforms, working with, and learning from Asian and Asian-Australian communities is a priority in the development and implementation of diverse artistic and/or curatorial projects and approaches, contributing to a variety of community-focused outcomes. In gathering these three platforms, the panel enquires into new perspectives and insights regarding the reconfigured significance and impact of community and community engagement in current artistic and curatorial practice – including Asian, Australian, Indigenous and other communities at the intersection of Asian-Australian experience. Moreover, it will reflect on contemporary Asian and Asian-Australian art's effect on and significance to diverse Australian communities, whether creative, aesthetic, social, cultural, political, or economic. In short, we ask, ‘what kinds of approaches are generative to working with and learning from Asian and Asian-Australian communities?'

PAPER #1
Present Futures, Bunjil Place Gallery

PRESENTER
Penny Teale, Curator at Bunjil Place Gallery, Narre Warren

Recently opening in 2017, Bunjil Place Gallery is relatively early in its exhibition history and with each exhibition presented, the Gallery begins to increase and expand understanding of its audiences and context. The Gallery operates within a greater arts and cultural precinct, located in the City of Casey, a local government area situated in South East Melbourne/ Naarm. Extending across some 410sqkm, Casey is home to around 360,000 residents, with over 100 faiths and 140 languages spoken, 36% of which speak languages other than English at home, with Dari, Punjabi, Sinhalese, and Chinese being some of the most prominent. The region welcomes over 10,000 new residents each year from all parts of the world, with a high number of residents from refugee or asylum seeker backgrounds. This paper will reflect upon key projects produced at Bunjil Place Gallery, that demonstrate ways in which artists have been vital in facilitating connection and deepening understanding of community, setting the path for future programming and extending the ambitions for a distinct exhibition program that embody the voices and experiences of many paths.

PAPER #2
Hyphenated Biennial: On Visibility, (Artist) Labour and Failures

PRESENTER
Nikki Lam, an artist, curator and producer; co-curator Hyphenated Projects and current PhD candidate (Art) at RMIT University

Artist-curator Nikki Lam will discuss the inaugural Hyphenated Biennial (2020-2021), its artist-led model and circumstantial failures. Hyphenated Biennial is a multi-venue exhibition curated by Hyphenated Projects that set out to connect Asian-Australian artists with First Nations artists across Melbourne’s western suburbs in December 2020-January 2022. This artist-led biennial was designed to support artists’ processes and facilitate meaningful dialogues within communities through residencies and site-specific investigations. As the art world’s desires for collectivisation grew alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, the expectation for the biennial to become an infrastructure emerged. The biennial’s intention to platform, connect and criticise, soon turned existential from within. A subversive curatorial project at its core, the biennial leverages an institutional framework to support artists with openness and generosity. However, between operating on a shoe-string budget in a speculative economy and resisting institutionalisation, not all of its goals have been achieved. The biennial’s co-director Nikki Lam will discuss hopes, ethics and limitations for the project, as well as rising tensions between labour and representation; collaboration and power. Lam will unpack the complex and questionable conditions that persist within the independent operations of Hyphenated Biennial, to offer insights into the reality of artist collectivisation in the Australian contemporary art world.

PAPER #3
4A: Then and Now

PRESENTER
Amrit Gill, Artistic Director/CEO, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

4A was established in 1996 in the wake of Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech to parliament. A group of artists and arts workers banded together to create a public space to celebrate Asian-Australian identities and to forge closer connections between Australia, the wider Asia region, and the world. Self-determination and grounding in community has been at the core of 4A’s work since the beginning, with a particular focus on art that addresses Asian Australian experiences and the contributions that diverse Asian migration has made ⎯ and continues to make ⎯ in shaping Australia. This paper examines key projects from 4A’s 25-year archive that have shifted visibility for Asian Australian artists and communities and explored new modes of curation and engagement.

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Biographies

Dr Michelle Antoinette, Monash University 

Dr Michelle Antoinette is Senior Lecturer and Researcher, Art History and Theory, Monash University. Her research focuses on modern and contemporary Asian art histories, especially contemporary art histories of Southeast Asia and intersections with global art currents. She is also interested in the contributions of Asian-Australian artists to Asian and Australian art histories. She has held major ARC Fellowships exploring contemporary Asian art. Significant publications include Reworlding Art History: Encounters with Contemporary Southeast Asian Art after 1990, and Contemporary Asian Art and Exhibitions: Connectivities and World-making. In 2019, she co-curated Shaping Geographies: Art, Woman, Southeast Asia, including Asian-Australian artists.


Penny Teale, Curator at Bunjil Place Gallery, Narre Warren

Penny has curated over fifty exhibitions encompassing contemporary sculptural practice and place. Her most recent collaborations include John Young, Diaspora, Psyche (2021); Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan, Home/Land: Project another Country (2019) and Vera Möller: A Thousand Tides (2018). In 2016, through Asialink Arts she curated ColourShift: Ross Manning+Kit Webster, Seoul. She was formerly Senior Curator, McClelland Sculpture Park+Gallery (2003-2017), and NETS Victoria board member (2013 – 2021). In 2011, she toured sculpture parks and regional museums in the UK, Europe, and USA on a Gordon Darling Travelling Grant. 


Nikki Lam, artist, curator and producer; PhD candidate (Art) at RMIT University

Nikki Lam is an artist, curator and producer based in Naarm (Melbourne) and born in Hong Kong. Working primarily with moving images, performance and installation, Nikki explores hybridity and memory contemplating time, space and impermanence, and recently, artistic agency during cultural, social and political transitions. Nikki’s works have shown widely including at Itoshima International Arts Festival (Japan), Pier 2 Art Center (Taiwan), TarraWarra Museum of Art, ACMI, West Space, BUS Projects and Cache Space (Beijing). Nikki is currently Co-Director Hyphenated Projects and Biennial, Curator-at-large The Substation, board member NETS Victoria, and PhD candidate (Art) at RMIT University. 


Amrit Gill, Artistic Director/CEO 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art


Amrit is an arts and cultural worker with experience in producing, programming, strategy, international relations, community development and social enterprise. From 2013 to early 2021, Amrit was the Australia Council for the Arts’ Director of International Development. She led international strategic investment across artforms, overseeing the Venice Biennale project and implementation of the agency’s first international arts strategy, expanding engagement and investment in Asia and global First Nations exchange. Previously, Amrit held roles at Milk Crate Theatre, the British Council Australia, and Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE). She holds a Bachelor (Art Theory) and a BA (History) from UNSW.