art & activism
in the
Asia Pacific –

A regional
view of First

Chaired by
Dr Michelle Antoinette,
Jenna Lee, Norberto Roldan,
Biung Ismahasan and
Greg Dvorak.

recording with captions now available


image: Biung Ismahasan, Anti-Alcoholism performative exhibition at Namasia community of Southern Taiwan, 2017. Image courtesy of Biung Ismahasan

(online event)

This panel seeks insights and dialogue on First Nations-Asian cultural intersections with reference to the broader regional context of the Asia Pacific, and in particular the significance of contemporary art as activism in highlighting these intersections. Chaired by Dr. Michelle Antoinette, this panel will bring together local and international speakers to open up First Nations-Asian dialogue beyond our immediate location(s), and to challenge the colonial logic of First Nations/Asia binaries that persist in the contemporary art world today.

Australian discussions on such issues have tended to be confined to our local national experience without reference to how First Nations-Asian intersections are experienced and situated within a wider regional context. Moreover, discussions in Australia have tended to silo the art-as-activism of First Nations artists from that of artists with Asian heritage, thereby replicating colonial logic. As a result, there has tended to be a binary separation between discourses of Indigenous race on the one hand, and ethnic migrancy and diaspora on the other. While the activism of First Nations and migrants/diaspora is often united in decentering Whiteness, the bifurcation of these groups often denies complexities such as colonial complicity by migrants on the one hand, but also shared experiences of colonialism and racism on the other.

This panel seeks to complicate nationally-focused conversations on the relationship between First Nations artists and artists of Asian heritage, and highlights the complex entanglements of First Nations-Asian identifications in Australia and regionally. The panel will explore questions such as: How do First Nations-Asia intersections play out in different Asian and Pacific contexts? How does this manifest in projects of art as activism that reflect the specific histories, politics and urgencies of different First Nations and Asia Pacific communities and locales? How are the categories of ‘First Nations’, ‘Asia’ ‘Asia Pacific’ and ‘contemporary art’ negotiated in such projects and their public contexts by different agents, such as artists, curators and First Nations and Asia Pacific communities? Looking to the broader region can provide important insights for how we build stronger First-Nations-Asian and First-Nations-Asia Pacific communities in solidarity with each other.

This event is co-presented with Incinerator Gallery and the event will be Auslan Interpreted.

About the chair:

DR MICHELLE ANTOINETTE is a Senior Lecturer and Researcher in Art History and Theory at Monash University, Melbourne. Her research focuses on Asian modern and contemporary art histories, especially contemporary art histories of Southeast Asia on which she has published widely. Michelle previously held research and teaching positions at the Australian National University, Canberra, where she was Convenor and Lecturer for courses on Asian and Pacific art and museums. She has held major Australian Research Council Fellowships researching developments in Asian contemporary art and museums: 'The Rise of New Cultural Networks in Asia in the Twenty-First Century' (DP1096041) and the ARC DECRA project ‘Asian Art Publics’ (2017–20 grant no DE170100455). Her significant publications include Reworlding Art History: Encounters with Contemporary Southeast Asian Art after 1990 (Brill | Rodopi, 2015) and with Caroline Turner, Contemporary Asian Art and Exhibitions: Connectivities and World-making (ANU Press, 2014). She co-curated the exhibition Shaping Geographies: Art, Woman, Southeast Asia, held in Singapore in 2019-20.

About the speakers:

GREG DVORAK is a Professor at Waseda University (Graduate School of Culture and Communication Studies / School of International Liberal Studies). Having grown up in the Marshall Islands, the United States, and Japan, Dvorak specializes mainly in themes of postcolonial memory, gender, militarism, resistance and art in the Oceania region. Founder of the grassroots art/academic network Project Sango, he serves as a co-curator for art from Northern Oceania in the upcoming 10th Asia Pacific Triennial of Art, and has helped to advise other exhibitions. Among other publications, he is the author of Coral and Concrete: Remembering Kwajalein Atoll between Japan, America, and the Marshall Islands (University of Hawaii Press, 2018).

BIUNG ISMAHASAN is a Bunun (one of Taiwan’s sixteen Indigenous Nations) curator, artist and researcher. He is a PhD candidate in Curating from Centre for Curatorial Studies at the University of Essex in the UK. His thesis entitles ‘Indigenous Relational Space and Performance: Curating Together Towards Sovereignty in Taiwan and Beyond’ (completed in October 2020). His research relates to contemporary Indigenous curatorial practice and aesthetics, focusing on Taiwanese Indigenous contemporary art. Ismahasan emphasises issues of participation, performativity and the historiography of Indigenous curation and exhibition design. He has received a MA in Cultural Policy, Relations & Diplomacy from the Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2014.

JENNA LEE is a mixed race Larrakia, Wardaman and Karajarri woman whose contemporary art practice explores the acts of identity/identification, label/labelling and the relationships formed between language, label and object. Being a Queer, Mixed Race, Asian (Japanese, Chinese and Filipino), Anglo Australian, Aboriginal Woman, Lee’s practice is strongly influenced by her overlapping identities, childhood memory as well as maternal teachings of subject and process.

        Visit Jenna Lee’s artist page ︎︎︎

NORBERTO ROLDAN founded Black Artists in Asia in 1986. He was founding artistic director of Visayas Islands Visual Arts Exhibition and Conference (VIVA ExCon) launched in 1990 in Bacolod. He co-founded Green Papaya Art Projects in 2000. He took his AB-Philosophy from St. Pius X Seminary, BFA from the University of Santo Tomas, and MA-Art Studies from the University of the Philippines.


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