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 four-part exhibition project. The first was 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

 

Exhibition documentation

 

A dim-lit gallery space with a series of black and white posters on the left wall and a video of a female face with red hair braided back projected onto the back wall

John Young Zerunge, Lambing Flat, 2018, digital print on paper, chalk and paint on paper, 27 works; overall dimension 3200 x 7100mm, each work 1000 x 700mm. Jason Phu, Do not stick your hand in the fire, sit near it and observe the stars, 2018, framed editioned photograph on paper, 1212 x 812mm. John Young Zerunge, Action: Covering, 2018, framed digital photographic series on paper, 2 works, each work 1212 x 812mm. John Young Zerunge, The Field, 2018, HD video, 8.05 minutes. John Young Zerunge, Action: Covering, 2018, objects from the performance Action: Covering at Blackguard Gully, Young, 21.04.2018: metal bucket, spade, felt blankets. All works commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art for The Burrangong Affray: Jason Phu and John Young Zerunge. Image: Document Photography.
A dark gallery space with a projection of a Caucasian woman's face. She has red hair braided back, freckles along her checkones and along her jawline and neck.
John Young Zerunge, The Field, 2018, HD video, 8.05 minutes, installation view. All works commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art for The Burrangong Affray: Jason Phu and John Young Zerunge. Image: Document Photography.
Three framed photographic prints on a grey gallery wall. The left shows a figure watching a series of the fires in the night, the middle print is of some grassy riverbeds in the Australian outback and the right shows a figure lying facedown in the dirt by the river, with a second figure shown legs-down pulling a covering over the lying figure
Jason Phu, Do not stick your hand in the fire, sit near it and observe the stars, 2018, framed editioned photograph on paper, 1212 x 812mm. John Young Zerunge, Action: Covering, 2018, framed digital photographic series on paper, 2 works, each work 1212 x 812mm. All works commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art for The Burrangong Affray: Jason Phu and John Young Zerunge. Image: Document Photography.
Four white cotton sheets painted with symbols, English words and Chinese characters. The upper left sheet shows a chair painted in black and blue ink, surrounded by Chinese characters and the words 'WOOD ROLLED SITTING CHAIRS'. The upper right sheet shows a painted teapot boiling on a blue flame, surrounded by Chinese characters and the words 'TEA LEAVE ROLLING WATER'. The lower left sheet shows two bok choy, a garlic head and an insect surrounded by Chinese characters and the words, 'VERY TASTY SPRING ROLLS'. The lower right sheet shows a curled bicep and fist with a blue rolled up sleeve, surrounded by Chinese characters and the words, 'ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES'.
Installation view, clockwise, from left:
Jason Phu, ROLLING ROLLS ROLLED ROLL, 2018, ink on sheet, dimensions variable, 4 works, each work 1200 x 1200mm. John Young Zerunge, Lambing Flat, 2018, digital print on paper, chalk and paint on paper, 27 works; overall dimension 3200 x 7100mm, each work 1000 x 700mm. All works commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art for The Burrangong Affray: Jason Phu and John Young Zerunge. Image: Document Photography.
A dim-lit gallery space with four white cotton sheets painted with symbols, Chinese characters and English words in black and blue ink on the left wall. On the right wall is a series of black and white posters, showing English and Chinese names, barren trees in the Australian outback and figures of East Asian appearance.
Installation view, clockwise, from left:
Jason Phu, ROLLING ROLLS ROLLED ROLL, 2018, ink on sheet, dimensions variable, 4 works, each work 1200 x 1200mm. John Young Zerunge, Lambing Flat, 2018, digital print on paper, chalk and paint on paper, 27 works; overall dimension 3200 x 7100mm, each work 1000 x 700mm. All works commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art for The Burrangong Affray: Jason Phu and John Young Zerunge. Image: Document Photography.
A series of 27 black and white posters showing barren trees in the Australian outback, a photograph of the Milky Way and figures of East Asian appearance. Some of the posters are printed with handwritten words such as 'Lambing Flat', 'James Roberts' 'Wiradjuri Exists', 'Haven at Currawong', 'Shelter All' and 'Homesickness'. Some posters are printed with handwritten Chinese characters.
John Young Zerunge, Lambing Flat, installation view, 2018, digital print on paper, chalk and paint on paper, 27 works; overall dimension 3200 x 7100mm, each work 1000 x 700mm, commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art for The Burrangong Affray: Jason Phu and John Young Zerunge. Image: Document Photography. Image: Document Photography.
A white gallery space with three dancing characters painted on the white walls. One of the figures has two heads situated on two long necks, four arms and two feet, with three LED screens lined straight down the body. A ring of stainless steel pots, kitchen utensils and toy drums is arranged on the hardwood floor.
Jason Phu, In the morning I wake the rooster. In the afternoon I drive across the mountains & waters. At night I cut all my ties, installation view (installation view), 2018, multimedia installation, dimensions variable; commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art for The Burrangong Affray: Jason Phu and John Young Zerunge. Image: Document Photography.
A figure painted in grey paint on a white gallery wall, with two heads, two long necks, four arms and two feet. One of the heads is crying a tear while the other has an angry expression, one of the hands is holding a baguette, the other holding a lightbulb, the other hovering over a flame and the other reaching for a block of gold with wings. Three LED screens are lined straight down the middle of this body, as if it were a spine. There is also a black cap and a pop-top water bottle fixed to the wall.
Jason Phu, In the morning I wake the rooster. In the afternoon I drive across the mountains & waters. At night I cut all my ties, installation view (installation view), 2018, multimedia installation, dimensions variable; commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art for The Burrangong Affray: Jason Phu and John Young Zerunge. Image: Document Photography.
A red kid's play tent is suspended from a white gallery ceiling and attached to the wall with a matching play tunnel. Two mannequin legs wrapped in two feathery green boas hang from the blue floor of the tent. Black sneakers are attached to the ends of these legs. The tent is suspended over a ring of stainless steel pots, cooking utensils and a toy drum.
Jason Phu, In the morning I wake the rooster. In the afternoon I drive across the mountains & waters. At night I cut all my ties, installation view (installation view), 2018, multimedia installation, dimensions variable; commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art for The Burrangong Affray: Jason Phu and John Young Zerunge. Image: Document Photography.
Close-up of words handwritten in grey ink on a white wall. The words read, 'The lion for us Chinese is a sybol [sic] of good luck but if you are at a zoo and you are feeding a lion a cartoonishly large bit of raw meat don't stick your hand too far down but also did you know lots of people die using fireworks in China as I'm sure they do all over the world some fireworks are banned in some parts of the country but still, durining [sic] New Years everyone lets a few bangers off and most times walking home you see a rooftop or two on fire'
Jason Phu, In the morning I wake the rooster. In the afternoon I drive across the mountains & waters. At night I cut all my ties, installation view (installation view), 2018, multimedia installation, dimensions variable; commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art for The Burrangong Affray: Jason Phu and John Young Zerunge. Image: Document Photography.