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On Wednesday 15 July 2013, ANU hosted a workshop that was part of the first phase in NYU’s Global Arts Exchange project. The bulk of the participants had only recently come through Shanghai, with a stopover in Perth for the NYU crew.

What is this project about?

This is the overview from the NYU website:

The exchange will bring together scholars, curators, and artists from each site and is meant to be generative for research, resulting in publications, exhibition development, and other research-based projects and programs to share and disseminate research, strengthen international networks of scholars and curators, and create ongoing dialogue between international colleagues, arts communities, and wider publics in the US, Asia/Pacific region, EU, Latin America, Africa, and Middle East in the expanding field of Asian/Asian Diasporic Art and Visual Cultures.

(NYU Global Asia/Pacific Art Exchange)

That all sounds great, but what did this creation of ongoing dialogue look like on the ground?

This post is my take on the event, viewed from a perspective that is extra-institutional (I’m into my third  year in a non-academic role, though I’ve kept up convenorship of the AASRN).

The workshop took place in the European Studies Centre at ANU, where the Chair of AASRN, Professor Jacqueline Lo, is based. The team from NYU was led by Alexandra Chang, and included Tom Looser, Dipti Desai, and Francesca Tarocco (NYU – Shanghai). It was my first time meeting them all as the NYU collaboration is focused on the visual arts (which is not my field).

Dean Chan and Jacquie have led this initiative from the Australian end, and it is a part of INDAAR (International Network for Diasporic Asian Art Research) activity. INDAAR was founded as part of our ARC Discovery project, as was the AAFFN (Asian Australian Film Forum Network). One could justifiably think of them as two off-shoots of the AASRN that have gone on to create their own momentum and projects.

The workshop felt primarily like a familiarisation meeting, bringing together artists and academics who are working in the field of visual arts from the US/China/Australia. Most of the workshop was about introducing Australian material and context to the NYU crew, with input from the broader academic, vis.arts, and curatorial community in Canberra.

Aside from meeting up again with some dear colleagues, the event was the first time I got to meet John Young, an artist who has loomed large on my radar of Asian Australian artists ever since I created the ‘Banana Pages’ so long ago (my first Asian Australian cultural production website – it was on GeoCities! Yes, GeoCities…). It was very satisfying to chat about issues of organisational momentum and minority cultural politics with John, and we’ve since followed up with a Melbourne chat that was similarly constructive. John’s current project is supported by OzCo and the blurb about it states:

John Young has been awarded a two-year Australia Council for the Arts Fellowship for Senior Artists, to research Chinese Diaspora in Australia from 1850 – present. The culmination of this 24-month research project will be produced in the form of large-scale exhibitions. In the following three years, these works will be exhibited both nationally and internationally in major museums and art spaces. The entire duration of the project is five years.

The project – very ambitious! – is an exciting one, and I’m very much looking forward to the results of John’s research and creativity in the consequent exhibitions.

Presenting alongside John were AASRN members, and stalwart supporters of diasporic Asian studies, Mayu Kanamori and Owen Leong. Being buddies with these two, I was more up to date with knowing their current (and former) projects. Still, hearing them speak about their work was a definite plus, and something I don’t get to do enough of.

Mayu’s Murakami project a fantastic melding of the scattered historical archive, social history, and artists’ sensibilities. I was delighted to hear that Performance 4A will be producing this multidisciplinary performance work.

Owen Leong’s work has always engendered a visceral response from viewers, and it was a great to be able to chat with him about what he was working on most recently. It’s always a privilege to hear about how work comes about, and the ‘making of’. I won’t say anymore about the particulars, but I do look forward to seeing what the process created!

The day was a very quick fly-in / fly-out for me, but well worth it to get a sense of the big things afoot in diasporic Asian vis.arts, and for Australian/American academic collaborations in the near future.