The Victoria — Jiangsu Sister-State Artist Exchange
Asialink Arts congratulates Mr. Dane Lovett and Mr. Xu Fei as the successful recipients of the Victoria — Jiangsu Sister-State Artist Exchange.
Dane Lovett was a finalist for the Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize in 2017. He was winner of the RBS Emerging Art Prize in 2010 and the Qantas Spirit Of Youth Award (SOYA) in 2005. Dane will travel to Jiangsu in September to embark on a six-week artist-in-residence at Points Centre for Contemporary Art in the ancient water town of Jinxi. During his time in Jiangsu Dane will also be hosted by Nanjing University of the Arts. Dane will pursue research into ink and wash painting in the creation of a series of large scale oil paintings based on his time in Jiangsu.
Foxglove 1 2018
Oil on aluminium composite panel
150 x 100 cm
I wish to examine the ‘Six Principles of Chinese Painting’ (developed c.550). In particular, the sixthprinciple ‘Transmission by Copying,’ which refers not only to copying from life but also the worksof history. I will explore the traditional master-pupil relationship, that sees the master demonstrating as the pupil copies over and over again until they are able to reproduce the workfrom memory. I hope to draw parallels between my own practice of creating repetitive paintings,whether based on art-history, pop-culture or self-referential imagery.
Installation view, Dog Show
STATION, Melbourne 2018
Victoria looks forward to welcoming Mr. Xu Fei later in September. Xu Fei holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sculpture from Nanjing University of the Arts and a Master’s degree in Decoration Art Design from Nanjing Normal University. Xu Fei was selected for the 2019 Best Young Artists Nomination Exhibition and the National Sculpture Art Exhibition and in 2017 he received third place in the Jiangsu Province Professional Art Award for the Best Art Award. He is held in the collection at the Jiangsu Art Musuem. Xu Fei is an Associate Professor of the Sculpture Institute, Nanjing University of the Arts. Xu Fei will be hosted by The Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.
Migrant Workers 2019
Comprehensive material 180 x 50 x 90cm
The State of Victoria and Jiangsu Province in China are celebrating 40 years of a sister-state relationship. Over four decades since 1979, Victoria and Jiangsu have worked together across a range of sectors, including science, technology and innovation, creative arts, and education. This reciprocal artist exchange program is part of the 40th anniversary celebrations. It is an opportunity for research, professional and creative development and to deepen cultural understanding. The artists will meet in-country to develop an understanding of one another’s artistic practice. The Victoria — Jiangsu Sister-State Artist Exchange is generously supported by the Victorian Government and the Jiangsu Provincial Government.
Asialink Arts are supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.
Points Centre for Contemporary Art in Jinxi Ancient Town
Hosting International Artist Residencies in Greater Melbourne
Ambitious investment is driving cross-sectoral collaboration on a raft of new hard and soft infrastructure projects that are strengthening Victoria’s branding as a Creative State, and Melbourne’s reputation as an international creative capital. However, there remains a surprising lack of dedicated residency space for visiting international artists. On 4 September 2019, a cross-sectoral group gathered at Grimshaw Architects to discuss opportunities to reposition Melbourne as a globally competitive destination for international residencies, grounded in thoughtful hosting. Invited panellists offered provocations around concepts of welcoming and hosting, how exchanges can better support the building of relationships and embed visiting artists within Melbourne’s creative ecology, and how residencies can provide conduits for cross-cultural dialogue and public debate.
Deepening a Culture of Hosting
As a first principle, hosting in the City of Melbourne must be founded in respectful acknowledgment of the Traditional Owners of the land. In the opening panel, singer and songwriter Kutcha Edwards called in Mutti Mutti language to ask permission of the ancestors of the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation to speak and enter sacred ground. Hosting and welcoming visitors to this land requires learning and heeding protocols and customs that meaningfully pay respect to Elders, past and present Residency Projects founder Eugene Howard, who works closely with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Corporation and the Nillumbik Shire Council in the development of the Garambi Baan (Laughing waters) Residency, affirmed the need for the arts and culture sectors to ensure that residency opportunities are meaningful and responsible when welcoming artists to unceded land. As several commentators noted, with the strong tendency for international artists to seek connection with Indigenous communities and histories, questions of how exchange can be meaningful for First Nations communities and artists need to be prioritised. It is also important to consider appropriate orientation for visiting artists, including challenging assumptions around traditional and contemporary First Nations’ artmaking practices.
Miriam La Rosa, who is undertaking doctoral research on cross-cultural artistic residencies, endorsed the untethering of hosting from western concepts and the embrace of Indigenous-led models. She proposed that a residency be conceived as a gift exchange between host and guest, one that is not necessarily material, but oriented towards the building of relationships. Conceiving of a residency as commutative rather than one-directional may require rethinking of the principles and structures that frame and shape an exchange. La Rosa also noted that while residencies are conventionally understood as providing artists space to think, develop, and experiment, some artists may not have an interest in developing new works or skills. They may approach the residency, for example, as a diplomatic act.
Clive Scott, General Manager of the Sofitel, spoke of residencies as potentially offering a moment of self-care and respite for artists. He underscored the opportunity for the hotel industry, which is in the business of hospitality and welcoming, to be more active in supporting artist residencies. The Sofitel artist in residency programme opens the complexity of hotel activity to artists, without pressure to produce creative outcomes. Scott advocated residency structures that challenge artists’ ideas through total immersion in an unfamiliar environment, while promoting cross-pollination of ideas between artist and the host community, including hotel staff and guests.
Phillip Adams, BalletLab, queried the model of residencies as mechanisms for diplomacy, posing the trafficking of artists between institutions as a performance of comfort. He agitated passionately for residencies that promote discomfort, by bringing oppositional artists and communities into creative confrontation within shared space, thus allowing for reflexive learning, and the renewal and recalibration of practices.
Embedding International Artists in Communities
International residencies can be isolating or detached experiences. Mella Jaarsma drew on lessons learned from Cemeti Institute of Art & Society, Yogyakarta, to emphasise the value of engaging a local facilitator to overcome possible language barriers, to connect the resident into local art scene, or to intensify engagement with a research field. Offering a perspective from regional Victoria, Kent Wilson spoke of the need to navigate the sensitivities and potential opportunities of extending trust to local communities to host visiting artists. Treating locals as labour for artistic process must be carefully addressed, but can also open space for extraordinary creative outcomes, and long-lasting relationships and collaborations.
Priya Srinivasan pointed to the colonial erasure from dominant histories of thousands of years of exchange between Australia and Asia. The marginal status of Asian diaspora communities within the Australian arts sector has prompted self-initiated, tactical, informal pathways for collaboration and exchange between Asia and Australia. She provided an example of triangular residencies between villages in Asia, diaspora residents in Australia, and Indigenous communities. This underscores the underappreciated soft power resource of diaspora to embed visiting artists within supportive communities.
Tilla Buden spoke of the artist residency program in Greater Dandenong, the most culturally diverse city in Australia, home to over 2000 asylum seekers. Emphasis has been placed on offering a residency to local artists in an historic government building, however overnight stays are not allowed. The Council has turned to the local community for ideas and resolutions for residency opportunities, what began as ad hoc community consultation has evolved into a monthly meet up in the local theatre. Through organic conversations, artists share ideas, works and opportunities in what Buden described as a “live noticeboard,” from which the council can learn and discover what it can do to support creative practice amongst its residents. This has allowed the council to really reflect the needs of their unique constituency, providing space for local diasporic artists to catalyse discussion around hosting visiting artists from their home countries and cultural contexts. Buden’s positive observations on how councils can best support artists was well aligned with Srinivasan’s comments.
From his work touring sound artists and musicians from Asia, especially China, to Melbourne, Mat Spisbah raised questions around how we define creative communities, and how this can lead to more nuanced models of engagement. Spisbah emphasised the importance of person to person connection in intercultural collaboration and knowledge sharing. There is scope for catalysing or strengthening partnerships between residency providers and local creative studios, which already have the infrastructure and artistic networks to allow impactful cross-fertilization of international and local practices.
Visiting Galecian artist Enar de Dios Rodriguez, who was just completing a residency at RMIT, praised the university setting as a place of residency, which can provide an international artist with facilities, equipment, studios, workshops, professional technical knowledge, and a readymade artistic community where shared interests can be developed. She raised discrete residencies as counter to the development of sustained relationships, but prolonged residencies as difficult to sustain in terms of family, living support, and professional commitments. An alternative model could involve a series of iterative residencies of shorter duration, spread over time.
While questioning the framing of residencies as magic puddings for cultural production, urban transformation and soft diplomacy, Eugene Howard also promoted nurturing the potency of residency opportunities by cultivating strong connections to place through revisitation and long-term engagement: “We’re interested in a symbiotic relationship between the artist, place adn communities, particularly through nurturing philosophies of return, enabling a more complex and nuanced engagement if, say, an artist knows they will return in one, two or even three years’ time.”
Howard called on Creative Victoria to play a greater role in supporting arts organisations and projects to rejuvenate dis-used assets outside of metropolitan centres. He advocated for new forms of non-permanent residency spaces, for example, attached to major infrastructure projects might create opportunities for embedding artistic practice into projects from their inception.
Marcus Westbury, who has driven the development of the Collingwood Arts Precinct, presented the CAP approach to the reclamation of city spaces for artists’ use, which he conceives as a transferrable model. CAP will function as a multi-use space for diverse arts tenants, with paying tenants subsidising not-for-profit entities. Westbury noted the challenge of finding and making creative spaces when policy makers actively remove and ignore the need for cultural spaces in the pursuit of profit-driven development. He advocated for systemic change at the state government level.
Adriano Nunes brought attention to the Creative Spaces website, which operates as a clearing house for local artists looking for places to lease for studios or performance venues. The website lists over 160 spaces of varying availability and cost. He also pointed to the Arts Infrastructure Framework as setting out the future development of infrastructure for the creative sector in the city. Although Arts Melbourne does not incorporate in residencies within the current program, Sophie Travers underscored the role they played in hosting international artists for AsiaTOPA and working to connect those artists locally.
Noting the rapid growth in Melbourne, audience questions were raised around why artist spaces suitable for residency use are not proliferating, and how the provision of residency spaces could be raised with developers and planners, who are required to assign a percentage of space in new buildings for community use under the contribution scheme. Nunes encouraged submitting a proposal to the Creative Spaces team to detail the needs, as a request is required to make space available.
Within the hotel industry, there are opportunities to expand and diversify artist residency offerings. In 2018, 1– 5-star hotels in Melbourne had approximately 85% occupancy, pointing to significant opportunity to release underutilised space for artist residencies. Given the market share of e-accommodation services Airbnb and Booking.com, there is scope to propose sponsorship of a programme of artist residencies across diverse accommodations in Melbourne, as a means to return social benefits to the community.
There is an urgent need to foster continued cross-sectoral cooperation to examine current and imminent potential for international residency space, as well as infrastructure opportunities and zoning barriers. A range of challenges and considerations for increased hosting capabilities in Greater Melbourne were identified that will require further dialogue and co-ordinated action.
For example, how can small organisations be supported by state government and local councils to administer high quality residencies, given soft infrastructure barriers, such as high administration and insurance costs, and a lack of access to cultural capability training or resources? How can arts organisations be assisted to navigate hard infrastructure challenges around building usage codes and safe accessibility? How can a level of cultural competency and safety for artists and hosts be assured? How can home stay offerings and voluntary hosting be appreciated and valued, while acknowledging that professional artists may have specific needs for privacy and flexible living and working space?
As well as a need to follow up on the varied proposals raised during the discussions, including coordinating a request to Creative Spaces to suit international artist residencies, and approaching online accommodation providers for residency support, strong demand was expressed for an online resource. A dedicated web portal for international artist residencies could profile current visiting residents, and also assist in matching the needs of visiting artists with organisations who offer studio facilities or accommodation.
Asialink Arts, Res Artis and the Committee for Melbourne have committed to pursue these next steps, and to deepen collaboration with individuals and organisations towards cooperative action. The Committee for Melbourne’s submission to the Creative State consultation included mention of the Symposium and advocacy for greater residency infrastructure in Melbourne.
The Symposium on Hosting in Greater Melbourne is the first step in a nationwide audit of barriers to hosting international, cross-cultural residencies, a strand of action that will benefit artists and arts organisations across Australia who have identified closer Asian engagement as an urgent priority.
Asialink Arts, Res Artis and the Committee for Melbourne are committed to translating these discussion points into action. If you have any contacts, ideas or thoughts please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Partners
Committee for Melbourne is an apolitical, not-for-profit, member-based organisation that brings together over 150 organisations from Greater Melbourne's business, academic and community sectors who have a passion for shaping Melbourne as a leading global city in the world's fastest-growing region, the Asia-Pacific.
Res Artis is a 26-year old network of arts residency centres from around the globe, comprising over 700 vetted members in over 85 countries. Res Artis operates from three international offices: the Netherlands, Australia and Iran. Res Artis supports and connect residencies, develops and expand residency networks, advocates for the importance of residencies in today’s society, and provides recommendations towards cultural mobility research and policy.
Asialink Arts works as a cultural enabler, capacity builder, and conduit to the Indo-Pacific region for Australian artists and institutions, leveraging a legacy of three decades of practical experience, cross-sector relationships, and trusted connections throughout the region. In 2019, Asialink Arts has been critically examining our impact, and refocussing our ambition and capacity to meet the demands of a rapidly changing region and diverse arts sector. Asialink Arts’ new facilitation model is responsive, agile, and dynamic, shepherding introductions, growing connections, fostering institutional partnerships, connecting artists and arts institutions to opportunities, and creating platforms for exchange. Our new strategies include a shift from outbound residencies towards mutual exchange and partnerships based on reciprocity. We will also proactively analyse barriers to engagement, and convene forums that bring cross-sectoral stakeholders together to identify practical, cooperative action to address barriers. Through our services, we are committed to measurably enhancing the agency of Australian artists and institutions to achieve their respective priorities for engagement with Asia.
ASEF Unplugged Conversations on the Arts in Asia and Europe
ASEAN-Australia connections have been high on the political agenda in the recent years. Political, security, trade, education and development links have been formalised and growing. But where do cultural relations and co-operation between Asia and Australia stand? What are some past and present modes and forms of cultural exchanges and collaborations, particularly from the context of Singapore and Southeast Asia? What roles do the arts and culture play in enabling meaningful dialogue and fostering mutual understanding? To stimulate a conversation around these questions, ASEF Unplugged-Singapore at The Projector , brought together 3 main speakers with extensive experience and knowledge in facilitating cultural exchanges between the 2 regions, and 4 arts practitioners as panellists to render voices from the ground on what it is truly like to engage in cultural, geographical and political bridge-building in their daily work.
The resulting discussion, as summarised in the following key takeaways, proved to be thought-provoking yet vibrant:
1. Cultural exchange has become closely associated with the concept of soft power where, in the context of statecraft, the appeal and influence of ideas and information is instrumentalised as an alternative dimension to military and economic (i.e. “hard”) force. Internally, governments use culture to cohere culturally diverse societies and concretise national identity. Externally, governments use it to promote their nation’s cultural identity in the international arena, and to mark out their country’s distinction in the international marketplace. Invariably, therefore, the idea of soft power often means that artists and cultural representatives are selected and sent forth almost exclusively on the basis of excellence rather than other qualitative values.
2. Culture is more than a one-way push or a tool of the state – cultural exchange involves many processes and works at many levels. Because culture is central to the evolution of human values and identity, it is also extensively initiated by peoples and communities through cultural exchange. That is, while it may at times take place at the highest of levels of the state (e.g. for national security and statecraft), it often resides at the people-to-people level (e.g. to satisfy the desire for openness and mobility). In addition, it is often guided by the philosophy that cultural actors and exchanges need not be defined by the history of the state, and that the forging of a different set of organic relationships is important for developing deep understanding, awareness, connection, and capability – from within.
3. Australia and Singapore rank a decent – though not outstanding – #10 and #21 respectively on the Soft Power 30 index. Both have a close institutional relationship with each other that spans over two decades, beginning with the first Memorandum of Understanding signed by Arts Victoria and the National Arts Council, Singapore in 1998 and more recently, the landmark joint Australia-Singapore film and television co-production agreement, which both parties signed even before either signed any similar agreement with China – the major cultural centre in the region. The Australian Singapore Art Group (ASAG, formed in 2018) is another clear indication of the investment to foster closer arts and cultural ties through potential co-creation of new work between the two nations.
4. There are many good lessons to be drawn from the work being done in Australia and Singapore. In Australia, arts is increasingly seen as a driver of experimentation and public-facing communication, hence there has been a proliferation of events and platforms to engage and reach specific audiences through art. Investing in relationship-building, in an iterative and sustained manner, is imperative for trusted platforms for expression and engagement. In Singapore, most organisations are flexible, engaging, and open (i.e. there is a strong culture of hospitality and hosting characteristic of Southeast Asia in general). However, issues such as operational clarity, cost, and timelines continue to present challenges.
5. At the same time, the relationship between Australia and Southeast Asia, more broadly, reveals a confusing, mixed reality. Asialink Arts’ efforts in supporting 1,000 artists in 28 years (with one third being engagements in Southeast Asia) offers evidence of the depth, breadth, and multi-directionality of Australian engagement with Southeast Asia. However, while Australia is considered by many to be part of the same region, while its four biggest trading partners are Asian countries, and while at least half of the Australian community was born outside of Australia or had a parent born outside of Australia, Australia invests more in New Zealand than it does the whole of Southeast Asia. The level of Indonesian language learning in Australia is lower now than in 1972 (despite Indonesia being one of Australia’s closest geographical neighbours), and Asian Australians form less than 1.3% of those in the senior rungs of politics and business. In fact, there are only five Asian CEOs leading companies listed on the Australian stock exchange.
6. The relationship may appear confusing, but it presents many opportunities. Historically, there has been deep engagement even before the formal “arrival” of arts and culture as a component of soft power; this is a useful foundation to build upon. It was noted that a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade statement cited a university student newsletter, written by students that came to Australia as part of the Colombo Plan, as being one of the earliest recorded forms of cultural diplomacy between Asia and Australia. Since then, international education both within and outside of Australia has held up as a prime example of the success of cultural diplomacy efforts. Presently, it has become increasingly common to see filmmakers (e.g. James Wan) and the like drawing on transnational networks and their diasporic advantage to amplify their work to international audiences – independently and without government support. Asialink, for one, serves as an alternative example of government-supported championing of arts and culture at the people-to-people level, which panellists cited as a viable and beneficial operating model. At the same time, panellists agreed that Australia does not leverage enough on the diasporic advantage of its people outside of the national framework – namely the vast social capital and networks that are brought to Australia and subsequently taken back to their home countries.
7. From an artistic point of view, cultural exchange implies and requires reciprocity. The discussion revealed that transference and exchange are insufficient, and that there needs to be a concerted shift towards collaborating on equal terms. Even within Australia, for instance, mainstream theatre struggles to reflect the diversity of the Australian people. Panellists affirmed that collaboration is about people, relationships, passion, and connections, and that for collaborations to work there has to be alignment of institutional interest, artist interest, and funding. While it is useful to think of an end product (funders usually fund tangible products, rather than intangible relationships), the process should begin from a desire to understand one another as people. Cultural diplomacy is not just about the presentation of works; it is more importantly about demonstrating what it really means to work together.
8. Arts and cultural practitioners share a common desire for their voice to be established beyond their local contexts. This takes deliberate collaboration, experimentation, and time, can only be enabled by longer-term investment and trust in their works and initiatives. Staying in one’s comfort zone is unsustainable in the long run, for there exists an innate motivation to have one’s stories reside in an international canon – not just, say, in the little ghettos of Asian or Australian festivals. It is of little surprise, however, that the arts infrastructure of today (along with what defines a good project) is often set or shaped by dominant cultures, with Asia and Australia often having to look to the West as a marker of excellence. Yet, because Asia is so heterogenous, Asian works tend not to fit neatly into Western categories, resulting in severe disadvantage in resources and opportunities. One way to improve this is to cultivate an ecosystem of cultural writers and critics who can interpret said works, in order to make them meaningful to outside audiences and help shift the conversation. Increasingly, seemingly small, localised problems that used to be ignored by many are now becoming more relevant to everybody regardless of national affiliation – this also presents an opportunity for arts and cultural practitioners to find common ground. In other words, more universally relevant the work is, the more likely it is to resonate – this entails a taking of one’s place in the world by first looking at each other, which is much more meaningful and impactful than always just telling the local stories one is expected to tell.
9. There is general agreement on the value that may emerge from “blind matchmaking” and experimentation by funders and agencies, yet an acknowledgement that the outcomes are inconsistent and sometimes incidental. While many random collaborations do not turn out to be effective, randomness can sometimes create the necessary conditions for a positive encounter to become fruitful. Beyond residencies and exchange programmes, there are many other examples of this in the context of Australia-Singapore cultural exchange, including the piggybacking of partners on each other’s activities, Australian scripts read in Singapore by Singaporean performers, Singaporean scripts likewise being read in Australia by Australian performers, original works co-written by Singaporean and Australian poets and playwrights – all of which demonstrate how far people-to-people collaboration can go, and how the outcome of said collaboration can be so different from and much more than the sum of its parts.
Recommendations by the audience
Toward the close of the discussion, members of the audience offered their views on cultural exchange between Asia and Australia. One member shared how the cultural heritage, friendships, and stories of humanity forged through Asia’s and Australia’s close cooperation in past wars could provide a rich foundation and resource for deeper cultural engagement and empathy. Another highlighted the shared importance of mental health issues and their potential to bridge common ground across geographies and cultures.
While the session helped to clarify a number of key issues surrounding the state and trajectory of cultural exchange between Asia and Australia, it also sparked new questions that will need to be addressed in the coming months:
- Who is funding – or, is best placed to fund – long-term alliances (as opposed to just projects), and how are said alliances best initiated?
- Are there ways for funders to quantify the merits of said alliances, in order to put forth stronger justification for funding?
- How can we establish partnerships that extend beyond mere display, and that expand beyond the mere relationship, in order to encourage mutual sparring to create something that addresses the questions both parties (and audiences beyond) really care about?
- How can we enable more co-production (for example, by creating avenues for multi-party grants and support)?
- In order to take full advantage of opportunities for cultural exchange, how can we overcome structural challenges surrounding transnational mobility, which persist in spite of how seemingly hyperconnected the region is?
- How can we make sense of the relative structural imbalance between countries of varying economic indicators, that at the same time fare similarly on cultural indicators? How can the terms of engagement and exchange be more equal?
ASEF Unplugged-Singapore at the Projector was held on 8 July 2019 from 7:30-9:30 PM at The Projector in Singapore and was co-produced by the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) and the Cultural Research Centre, a newly-launched cultural research incubator based in the Department of Communications and New Media at the National University of Singapore, and featuring Asialink, Australia’s leading centre for the promotion of public understanding of the countries in Asia and Australia’s role in the region. This edition serves as a follow-up conversation to ASEF Unplugged-Adelaide where arts practitioners from the ASEAN region discussed the trends and gaps of Australia-Southeast Asia cultural engagement with their Australian peers.
The session title From Floating Life to Open Homes: Exploring Cultural Exchange between Asia and Australia takes reference from two cultural texts from differing contexts and symbolises different forms of cultural exchange. Floating Life is a 1996 Australian film by Clara Law, a Hong Kong film director who relocated to Australia. Following the story of a Chinese family’s move from Hong Kong to Australia, the film explores the challenges of cultural relocation as well as issues concerning diasporic identities. Meanwhile Open Homes is a ‘theatre-in-the-home’ experience by Singaporean artist Jeffrey Tan. It differs from a static film like Floating Life as it welcomes audiences into the intimate home spaces of residents who act as both host and storyteller.
Speakers at ASEF Unplugged-Singapore at the Projector:
Penny BURTT (Australia)
Pippa DICKSON (Australia)
Audrey YUE (Singapore)
Professor in Media, Culture and Critical Theory
National University of Singapore
Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF)
ASEF Unplugged is a new event series of the Asia-Europe Foundation focusing on informal peer-to-peer conversations on arts, culture and heritage. It responds to the growing demand from conference audiences for more interactive formats that allow for greater engagement of participants beyond being mere receivers of information.
To know more about ASEF Unplugged & to keep updated of our upcoming events, please visit: https://asef.live/unplugged
ASEF is publicly funded by over 50 partner countries of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), an informal political dialogue process. Singapore and Australia are ASEM partner countries.
This original article was written by:
Daniel HO Sheng