Chinese Museum Arts Collective, 2023. Courtesy of the museum.
9 September – 30 September 2023
Opening event & performances: Saturday, 9 September, 12–2pm
Market Square, 391 Queen St, Melbourne
Testing Grounds Emporium, 432 Queen St, Melbourne
(Queen Victoria Market)
Opening hours: Wednesday–Sunday, 11am–4pm
Artists Frankie Zhang • Leon Zhan • Rui-Qi Qiu • Poppy Chan • Kelvin Lau • Yu-Chen Xin • Xiao-Bo Zheng • Yong-Ping Ren and Benjamin Woods • Jia-Xin Nong • Ming Liew • Karen Song • Thitibodee Rungteerawattananon
Curators Ben Yi-Yu Qin • Yu-Zhen Cheng • Xiao-Lin Chen
日久他乡即故乡 – Huang Qiao 872-953
It is a violence to leave a known, a ‘lived-in’ place with perhaps the entirely accidental mind to settle in another. We may like to refer to this act as an ‘uprooting’, as opposed to merely packing up, moving on. And if what is expected of the migrant at their destination is a process of ‘integration’, then the conduct of departure we may also find interest in terming a ‘disintegration’. I think it is entirely commonsensical to imagine that that departure which is also a leave-taking is a destructive act. To the full extent that the human being is an animal and all of its activities contained within the compass of the natural world, the ghostly stresses and elations of its psychic functions included among these, leaving home is a form of natural disaster. The question that I find essential in all this is whether this act of leaving is also creative.
The narrative of Chinese migration around the world is long, multi-faceted and riveted with harms inflicted and received. The story of Chinese migration to Australia is, by comparison, short, minor in scale, but, one feels, somehow conclusive. For where else? Where after this? Once one has arrived in a place enriched and privileged by its very and utter marginality (though the national pride might insist, squeakingly, otherwise). I have always imagined Australia as an end-of-the-road: a realm of ill-gotten milk and honey that has, on the question of plenty for the many, seldom wavered in promise. Of course, people migrate for many reasons that themselves may be turned in the mind. But the overwhelming and controlling influence that plagues the leave-taker and the migrator is the economic motive. This is true of the Chinese diaspora as it is manifestly true of the Chinese in Australia, whether one madly profits or whether for one wealth is merely a way of attaining to breakaway dignities (incarnations and modulations of natural-most ones). As the departed and the arrived who are the agents of an overwhelming economic congress, we are immigrants falling under the scope of the Department of Home Affairs, figures in a statistical order, atoms in a realm of modern theories that tinkerers and technocrats unfailingly aver is reality itself. Perhaps we are parties too, as culpable as the others, to historical wrongs that cannot be expunged. As immigrants we are the disdained until 1973, when the White Australia Policy was finally dismantled, and now those approved of under the new program of Multiculturalism.
Contingencies of historical moments and institutional power aside, migration is a constant human force, a natural wellspring. It is a trait that facilitates the expression of another human constancy that is our orientation towards the place in which we are most peaceful, the place in which we grow and unfold our potential, the place in which our death would seem most consummate. We are unlike other animals, for whom in-dwelling is a fixation of the nerves, an attachment to a sheltered closeness. We may uproot for rudimentary reasons, danger or impoverishment, yet find ourselves in the process of searching for a place that is not merely protected from hazards and plentifully supplied, but one in which we may come to a rest and seem to belong to it, as it to ourselves. The constancies of our human nature, and the contingent influences under which that nature is racked, converge on the individual case. They concatenate, like the wind that shudders the strings of a musical instrument, into the fragmented psyches of every person. Home is, first of all, an operative concept of the personality. It is first for you or I that leave-taking is destructive, a disaster, and it is in our psyche that Home is finally decided. This is the space for our deepest labours of anguish and disappointment – it is the gap for an intense work of self-realisation.
Ben Yi-Yu Qin
Manager of the Arts Collective
Museum of Chinese Australian History
The Chinese Museum Arts Collective (CMAC) is an initiative founded in 2022 with the specific purpose to support, facilitate and advocate for Chinese Australian creative practitioners of all disciplines. CMAC presents an annual program of activities that are diverse, innovative, cross-disciplinary and that engage Australians of all diversities. Since its inception, it has hosted an annual series of Artist’s Insights talks, facilitated the creation of the original rap musical, Ah Chan: The Best Cabinet Maker, inaugurated the first and only Chinese Australian Film Festival: Screen Presence and presented a virtual exhibition, Through Time and Space, in cooperation with RMIT University and the Australian Embassy, Beijing, which is now expected to tour across China.
Saturday, 16 September, 7 – 8.30pm
A storytelling event that will be improvisational in form, relaxed in atmosphere but full with conversation, stories and songs.
'Yesterday we were here' is an event that combines the energies of short story writer, Ken Chan, and singer-songwriter, Jimmy Fong, to explore the textures of Chinese life in Australia.
Ken Chan (https://www.kenchan-writing.com/) writes and tells stories about growing up and being Chinese in Australia. Ken is, on the one hand, a first-generation immigrant born in Shanghai, and on the other, a member of a family who has been Chinese Australian for four generations. His stories about Chinese Australians reflect our community today: ever new and always historical.
Jimmy Fong (https://www.jimmyfong.net) writes and sings about his home. As an immigrant to Australia from Malaysia, Jimmy animates the moods of his homeplaces through music and song. His songs express wellsprings of vibrant emotion that realise present ways of reverberating to our time and place.
'Yesterday we were here' is a night traced by memory in communication with people who are here today, now.