The Burrangong Affray: Jason Phu & John Young Zerunge

SYDNEY. 29 JUNE – 12 AUGUST 2018.

Between November 1860 and September 1861 the New South Wales goldfields of Burrangong, near the present day township of Young, was the the site of Australia’s largest racially motivated riot. Rising antagonism over gold mining disparities and cultural habits saw trivial misunderstandings intensify into racial tensions that erupted into violence across the goldfields. Over 10 months, Chinese miners were subjected to threats, robbery and sustained acts of violence.This anti-Chinese sentiment had swept through the goldfields of Victoria in the 1850s and by the early 1860s had reached a flashpoint in New South Wales, provoking public opinion and debate. In Sydney, the NSW Parliament responded to the contention by passing legislation to restrict Chinese immigration and began, alongside Victoria and South Australia, to write the prelude to the White Australia Policy.

Through a series of residencies in Young and surrounding historical sites, Chinese-Australian artists Jason Phu and John Young Zerunge trace the events and repercussions of this period of civil disobedience. Supported by historian Dr Karen Schamberger, the artists’ research-led practice interweaves these accounts of history to create contemporary mediations that reflects upon the forces of identity, economics, race and otherness in Australia today. This collaborative history project will bear a legacy publication.

This exhibition is the second iteration of a two-part exhibition project. The first will be realised in Young in April. 2018.

Jason Phu (b.1989, Sydney, Australia; lives and works in Sydney) studied at COFA, Sydney graduating with honours in 2011 and NSCAD, Nova Scotia. He works across a range of mediums from installation, painting and sculpture where he traces the connections between the tradition of Chinese brush and ink painting and contemporary practice. His work has been informed by several China based residencies at CAFA, Beijing; DAC Studios, Chongqing; and Organhaus, Chongqing which has enabled him to further investigate the tradition of calligraphy. Recently Jason has had numerous solo exhibitions in Australia including Westspace, Melbourne; Nicholas Projects, Melbourne; CCAS Gorman Arts Centre, Canberra; and ALASKA PROJECTS, Sydney. He won the coveted Sulman Prize in 2015 and in the same year received a Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship which allowed him to develop his practice between China and Australia.

John Young Zerunge (b.1956, Hong Kong; lives and works in Melbourne, Australia) started his artistic practice in the 1980s with writings on conceptualism and post-modernism. Within four-decades of artistic production, Young’s oeuvre has seen various transformations within his practice of painting and installation. In the last decade his work has focused on two strands, Abstract Paintings and historical re-imaginings in the form of the History Projects; starting with Bonhoeffer in Harlem (Berlin, Bamberg) then in the last five years, projects based on the history of the Chinese Diaspora in Australia since 1840. Retrospectives of his work have been held at the TarraWarra Museum of Art, Victoria in 2005 and Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University Canberra in 2013 and he has been included in major exhibitions in the likes of New York, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Berlin.

Dr Karen Schamberger (b.1980, Australia. Lives and works in Canberra, Australia) researches and writes about Australian museums, migration and cultural diversity. Her thesis ‘Identity, belonging and cultural diversity in Australian museums’ (2016) examined the way that objects mediate relations between people of culturally diverse backgrounds in Australian history and society, as well as the roles that museums play in these relations. One of her thesis case studies traced the biography of the ‘Roll-Up No Chinese’ banner created during the 1860-61 Lambing Flat riots and now held by the Lambing Flat Folk Museum in Young, NSW.

She currently works at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra as part of the curatorial team developing a new environmental history gallery.  She has previously worked in curatorial roles on the ‘Identity: Yours, Mine Ours’ exhibition (2011) at the Immigration Museum, Melbourne and the ‘Australian Journeys’ gallery (2009) at the National Museum of Australia. 

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body