Evocative new performance-art exhibition opens

Asia-Pacific performance-art on display at the National Museum of Australia

An emotive reimagining of a fabled Greek myth, a classical Javanese dance form exploring women’s hair and a dizzying virtual performance through the Buddhist cycle of death and rebirth are all part of an evocative new exhibition now open at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Led by Arts Centre Melbourne in partnership with Melbourne’s dynamic arts precinct and independent sector, Asia TOPA is an international triennial festival of contemporary performance-art from across the Asia Pacific, designed to connect artists, cultures and ideas.

Between festivals, Asia TOPA LABs supports the development of new works through collaborations between artists.

Disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the program became Asia TOPA Virtual LABs, which continues to foster the creation of new works in a virtual capacity.

Director of the National Museum of Australia, Dr Mathew Trinca, acknowledged the vital role performance-art plays in engaging people and sparking crucial conversations.

‘This exhibition brings contemporary perspectives from the Asia Pacific to the Museum. It grapples with social, cultural and environmental issues – similar themes are explored in the Museum’s permanent galleries. Engaging with this exhibition presents a unique opportunity for visitors to view the world from a wider range of perspectives,’ Dr Trinca said.

The exhibition presents seven moments in time resulting from the Asia TOPA Virtual LABs program since March 2020.

The works tackle themes ranging from contemporary reframing of traditional practices to engagements with questions about digital identities and the state of the planet.

Asia TOPA Founding Creative Director Stephen Armstrong, who developed the exhibition, said it has significance because of its ability to connect people and cultures from across the world.

‘Asia TOPA presents legendary artists as well as new and emerging voices to celebrate the diversity of culture and creativity in our region. Many of the commissioned works are creative partnerships and collaborations between Asian artists and their Australian colleagues,’ Mr Armstrong said.

The exhibition will be on display at the National Museum of Australia from 29 September 2022 to 29 January 2023.

Asia TOPA is a joint initiative of Arts Centre Melbourne and the Sidney Myer Fund and is supported by the Victorian and Australian governments. Asia TOPA Virtual LABs received additional support from the Australian Government (Office for the Arts), Playking Foundation and the National Museum of Australia.

Asia TOPA Background:

  • Led by Arts Centre Melbourne in partnership with Melbourne’s dynamic arts precinct and independent sector, Asia TOPA is an international triennial festival of contemporary performance-art from across the Asia-Pacific designed to connect artists, cultures, and ideas.
  • Asia TOPA: Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts is a joint initiative of Arts Centre Melbourne and the Sidney Myer Fund and is supported by the Victorian and Australian government. Asia TOPA Virtual LABs received additional support from the Australian Government (Office for the Arts), Playking Foundation and the National Museum of Australia.
  • This exhibition presents seven moments in time resulting from the Asia TOPA Virtual LABs program since March 2020.
  • The works displayed range from contemporary reframing of traditional practice to engagements with questions about digital identities and the state of the planet.

Works include:

  • The Interpreters – a multimedia artwork exploring the performative acts of translation and interpretation as a digital recording of a conversation between artist Nicola Gunn and translator Séverine Magois that is translated to Japanese and back into English.
  • What Type Nymph Was She? – a video and performance-based adaptation of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice that explores the relationship between ecological destruction and the loss of cultural beliefs.
  • Bedhaya Roro – a classical dance form with symbolic and ritual meaning associated with Javanese court culture. In this film, the bedhaya has been reimagined to focus on the ceremonial, philosophical and spiritual importance of Javanese women’s hair.
  • DOKU: Live Alone Die Alone –The Karma Circle – a motion capture performance which investigates the relationship between our physical and digital identities.
  • Betty Error Trip – an experimental collaboration exploring ideas of friendship, connection, and the creator’s places in the world as artists and queer women. Visitors are invited to join the Betties in their digital world by accessing an Instagram filter.
  • Gapu Nguban (Chasing the Rainbow) – a collaboration between the Yolŋu people of Northeast Arnhem Land and the Paiwan and Truku peoples of Taiwan that mixes contemporary and ancient styles of music, song, and dance.
  • Epoch Wars – Combining image, text, film and internet forum, Epoch Wars mounts a challenge to the naming of our current geological era as the Anthropocene, a term now widely used to acknowledge human impact on the planet.

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