Reviews/Visual Art

Conversations within but not between

29 November 2019

Review: Charlotte Hickson and Ashley Yihsin Chang, ‘Unfolding Acts: New Art from Taipei and Perth’ ·
Review by Jess Boyce ·

“Unfolding Acts: New Art from Taipei and Perth” marks the 20th anniversary of the Charter of Mutual Friendship between the two cities; a friendship that is evident in the string of exhibitions, residencies and other programs involving these communities that have been held at PICA and other galleries and organisations in the sister cities over the last two decades.

Bringing together both Western Australian and Taiwanese artists, “Unfolding Acts” is curated by Charlotte Hickson and Ashley Yihsin Chang. The show presents stories from both metropolitan and regional areas and represents voices of artists, First Nations people, workers and everyday folk.

Created by the York Noongar community members and Community Arts Network, Welcome to Balardong is a collaborative series of animations that share stories of life in York. Whilst the childhood memories are reflected upon fondly, and the clay animations playful, undertones of systematic racism and colonial structures are hard to ignore.

Dondon Hounwn’s story explores a shifting dynamic between traditional and modern practices. Photo: Bo Wong.

Such storytelling is at the heart of many of the works in “Unfolding Acts”, including Yu-Cheng Chou’s A Working History: LU Chien-Te for which the life-story of a Taiwanese contingent worker nearing retirement was published and recorded, and Chia-En Jao’s video Taxi which documents conversations between the artist and Taipei Taxi drivers to piece together a story of Taiwan’s history and current political climate. Dondon Hounwn’s story looks inward instead; three videos displayed concurrently each show the Truku artist in some way being pushed and pulled by other performers, a shifting dynamic between traditional and modern practices.

Whilst all other works in the exhibition present stories from the artist’s home city, rather than a response to the sister city, Taiwanese artist Yi-Chun Lo’s Protective Layers responds to the impact of agriculture and feral animals on Western Australia’s natural landscape and wildlife. Created during a residency in Western Australia, Lo engaged with Noongar elders and utilised native trees and grasses as well as introduced grains to construct hides of a kangaroo and a fox, laid on the floor like ornamental rugs.

Also engaging with natural landscape, Whadjuk Noongar artist Sharyn Egan’s One mob features animals made out of yonga goona (kangaroo droppings) and balga resin, and Pilar Mata Dupont’s series of photographs, Multispecies, depicts invasive species of flora introduced to Jirndawurrunha, the lands of the Yindjibarndi people in northern Western Australia.

Pilar Mata Dupont’s ‘Multispecies’ depicts invasive species of flora introduced to Jirndawurrunha. Photo: Bo Wong.

Whilst pvi collective’s public residency and series of interventions tiny revolutions successfully reflects “Unfolding Acts’” aim to “examine the social, cultural and economic fabric” of Perth, presented separate to the exhibition in an upstairs room, it felt disconnected from the discourse in the main space. This separation is created by its physical distance from the other works and heightened because, unlike the resolved outcomes presented downstairs, it is a participatory project in progress, marketed individually without mention of “Unfolding Acts”.

Artworks in “Unfolding Acts” present a deep and thoughtful glimpse into the individuals and communities who make up the fabric of Perth and Taipei, yet for an exhibition filled with storytelling, the conversation between works and the two cities is lacking.

“Unfolding Acts: New Art from Taipei and Perth” runs until December 22.

Pictured top: ‘Welcome to Balardong’ by York Noongar community members with Community Arts Network. Photo: Bo Wong.

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Author —
Jess Boyce

Jess Boyce is an artist and curator with a passion for the promotion of Perth arts. Jess has worked in a range of community, commercial and artist run spaces across Perth and co-founded Cool Change Contemporary in 2018. She has joyful playground memories of the wombat shaped spring rockers.

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