Symposium – New Century Garden

New Century Garden: Talking About Public Art in Chinatown

What will public gardens look like this century and what will be their purpose? How can public space and art function in relation to one another? What are the benefits and limits of multidisciplinary approaches to public art?

These are some of the questions examined in New Century Garden: Talking About Public Art in Chinatown, a forum that explores ideas, approaches and concerns around public space and public art within the social and historical context of Sydney’s Chinatown.

Engage with an impressive line-up of guest speakers from professional backgrounds ranging from art, architecture, design, curation, literature and cultural management to unravel approaches toward a proposed new public art project focused on the idea of a garden in Chinatown’s Thomas Street.


Guest speakers

John Choi is Founding Partner of Choi Ropiha Fighera architects with an international profile for innovative projects that bring together architecture, planning, branding, public space and tourism.

Felicity Fenner is Chief Curator at the National Institute for Experimental Arts and Senior Lecturer in the School of Art History and Education at the College of Fine Arts, University of NSW.

Nicholas Jose is a novelist, essayist, playwright, former Cultural Counsellor to the Australian Embassy in Beijing, and is currently a Professor at the Writing and Society Research Group at the University of Western Sydney.

Dr Xing Ruan is an author and Professor of Architecture at the University of New South Wales.

Aaron Seeto is Director of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and Public Art Curator for City of Sydney’s Chinatown Public Art Plan.

Bridget Smyth is Design Director at the City of Sydney and leads the City’s urban design and public art team.

Jason Wing is a Sydney-based artist of Aboriginal and Chinese heritage who has been commissioned for a public art project in Chinatown’s Kimber Lane.


Forum details

Date: Friday 21 October 2011

Time: 12.00 pm lunch for 1.00 pm start. The Forum will run from 1.00 – 4.30 pm followed by refreshments.

Venue: 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art 81-187 Hay Street, Sydney NSW 2000



FREE event. Bookings are essential as places are limited.

Please RSVP to Ph 9212 0380 or email


About the Forum

New Century Garden: Talking About Public Art in Chinatown, produced by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art in partnership with City of Sydney, examines the role of public space in Chinatown, using the specific idea of a garden as an initial proposal for a public art project.

The principle aim of the forum is to begin a public discussion on ideas, processes and concerns regarding new approaches to public art, particularly in regards to multidisciplinary ways of working that may allow for artists, designers, architects, planners and communities to come together in innovative and mutually rewarding contexts.

An opportunity exists for the development of a new public artwork on Thomas Street in Chinatown, which runs between Hay Street (at the southern end of Sussex Street) and past Quay Street to the rear of the ABC Building in Ultimo. The area of Thomas Street that has been identified will in future be a pedestrian thoroughfare.

In thinking about this site Public Art Curator for City of Sydney’s Chinatown Public Art Plan, Aaron Seeto, is drawn to the idea of installing a garden or to work with artists working with vegetation. There are reminiscences around ideas of more traditional sculpture gardens, but transformed for a 21st century context. In creating a garden space, this area for public art could house a number of permanent smaller works and become a public meeting area as well as becoming a space for temporary projects and presentations. The garden itself would be a public artwork in its own right, created through a process of collaboration and research amongst a team of artists, designers, architects and other professionals.

More than just a garden, the site on Thomas Street will operate as a junction of a range of disciplines and positions, including art and design, social and cultural history, feng shui principles and the community’s needs from this public space. In this sense, Thomas Street will operate as a curated space, using the idea of a garden to structure a range of positions around history, tradition, and the social and cultural aspirations for the future. Furthermore, in the past, public art in the area has been formulated within a representational mode that used a recognisable palette of Chinese elements – such as lanterns or red lighting – to locate the Chinatown area.  However, Contemporary Asian cultures around the world are constantly evolving this outwardly representational mode and future projects should embrace this dynamic to broaden the cultural, conceptual and technological parameters of thinking about what public art can be in Sydney’s Chinatown.




Image credits:

Bridget Smyth, Design Director at City of Sydney. Photo by Nick Garner

Aaron Seeto, Director of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. Photo by Nick Garner

Jason Wing, commissioned artist for Chinatown’s Kimber Lane. Photo by Nick Garner








Performance – Caochangdi 404

4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art hosts Caochangdi 404, a performance by Beijing-based American artist An Xiao. Caochangdi 404 is the second in the series of social media performances presented by Portal – an international, cross-platform project curated by Janis Ferberg (Sydney) and Stephen Truax (New York).

An Xiao’s Caochangdi 404 is an online performance and installation connecting a Sydney audience with local residents and artists in Caochangdi, one of Beijing’s more famous art villages.

Drawing from the conceptual art tradition of Lawrence Weiner, Yoko Ono, Zhang Peili and Fluxus, Xiao will provide a set of simple instructions in both Mandarin and English for a conversational exchange between participants in both locations, utilising social media platforms.

In constructing this conceptual framework for exchange, Xiao seeks to address issues of connectivity in the 21st century by considering two barriers to contemporary communication: technological constraints and the basic, but ancient problem of language barrier.

We welcome you to join us in the gallery or online to participate in this performance.

For more information contact Portal

Midnight Matsuri

The fundraising committee and the Board Of 4A invite you to bring your tortured minds and souls for a night of dreams…

The Fundraising Committee and the Board of 4A invite you to bring your minds and souls to a festival where dreams and ghoulish visions come to life… step into Midnight Matsuri

Live art auction by auctioneer Ronan Sulich of Christe’s Australia, of work by leading and emerging Asian and Australian artists, silent auctions of fabulous prizes, live performance and raffles.

All proceeds raised on the night contribute to the activities of 4A, Australia’s most respected and innovative non-profit visual arts organisation dedicated to Asian and Australian contemporary art.


Grasshopper Bar and Eating House
   Cocktails served from 7pm
   Saturday 8 October
   $100pp (incl. GST)
Dress code
Asian Horror
Book your tickets online at or phone 02 92120380

Q&A For Emerging Practitioners

Chair: Nick Garner

Speakers: Michael Dagostino, Brianna Munting, Anna Davis, Ken Yonetani

Are you an artist at the beginning of your career and want to know more about how the art world works?

How do you get your work seen and who sees it anyway?

What opportunities are out there and what support systems can you rely on?

Is the situation different in South-East Asia and are there opportunities or things to be learnt from the region?

A panel of professionals including curators, residency operators, publishers and professional development organisations will address these pertinent questions.


19 March 2011, 12:30 – 2:30pm

It Without A Blink is a major performance by Berlin-based artist Eunhye Hwang. The performance marked the opening of Constellation, an exhibition that brings together four Korean artists who live and work outside of Korea.

Hwang’s performances investigate communication through public interventions that draw on participatory engagement by an often unexpecting audience. For It Without A Blink, members of the audience are invited to register their names that will then be orchestrated into a complex  arrangement of movement and vocalisation by the artist and an eclectic group of singers and dancers, and performed back to them.

Huang’s previous notable performances include PS1 at MOMA, New York in 2010, Body and Eros Venice Biennale, SONAR  Kunstmuseum Celle, Germany and Insomnia Le Generateur, Paris in 2007.



11 February 2011, 8PM

Cinema Alley is a one-night only street cinema that showcases significant video works by contemporary Asian and Australia artists. It is an annual event that takes place during City of Sydney’s Chinese New Year Festival.

In 2011, Cinema Alley’s curated program explored the ideas of the city – their transformation, experiences of alienation and the effects that history and tradition place on the individual. The selection of works include leading artists Chen Chieh-Jen, Jun Yang, Ou Ning, Cao Fei, Wang Qingsong, Yuan Goang-ming. A selection of short animation works from local artists were also presented as a preview to the main screening.


San Yuan Li (2003)

Ou Ning and Cao Fei

San Yuan Li is a self-titled film about the small suburb of San Yuan Li in Guangzhou, China, directed by Ou Ning and Cao Fei in collaboration with young artists and filmmakers from the U-theque group. The film formed part of the Canton Express exhibition curated by Hou Hanru for the Venice Biennale in 2003. San Yuan Li was once a rural suburb on the outskirts of Guangzhou; however, with the expansion of the city, the suburb now finds itself at the cutting edge of real estate development. In an attempt to preserve their way of life, the people of San Yuan Li have refused to forfeit their land, forcing urban developers to build around the suburb.

The film is a metaphorical journey through China’s rapid modernisation that explores the powerful juxtaposition between the old suburb and the modern city, capturing the essence of disappearing local culture in the face of modernisation and urban development.  Shot in black and white, with no dialogue and rapidly edited scenes, the film gives the impression that modernity is an unnatural acceleration of development.


The Factory (2003)

Chen Chieh-Jen

The Factory is a film by artist and filmmaker Chen Chieh-Jen that reflects on the hardship faced by the factory workers of Taiwan. In 2003 seven years following its closure, Chen Chieh-Jen invited a group of ex-textile workers to return to the Lien Fu garment factory; a place where many members of the group had worked for over two decades.

Taiwan was once one of the world’s major manufacturing centres. However, during the 1990s many manufacturing companies in Taiwan began to move offshore in search for cheaper labour. As factories began to close, employees found themselves without work, laid-off by company owners who refused to pay retirement pensions and redundancy fees.

Many of the abandoned objects in the Lien Fu garment factory remain untouched since its closure in 1996, possessing, as Chen Chieh-Jen describes, a dual sense of time. This element of simultaneous time forms the narrative structure of The Factory. The film features women returning to work after seven years of absence, using their abandoned tools as though they had never left. As the camera scans the women at work, Chen Chieh Jen intermixes documentary footage of factory workers produced by the Taiwanese government during the 1960s. The women of the film chose not to speak. To emphasise the impact of this gesture, Chen Chieh-Jen decided to remove all sound from the film.


Floating (2000)

Yuan Goang-ming

Floating is a film by artist Yuan Goang-ming that presents the harrowing experience of a man adrift on a boat at sea. The film is an existentialist metaphor that reflects on human experience, investigating the consequences of temporal displacement, and the associated feelings of insignificance and emptiness that people encounter when confronted with a loss of orientation.


A Short Story on Forgetting and Remembering (2007)

Jun Yang

The film follows a man voicing his thoughts as he wonders the streets of Taipei at night. The film’s concept is based on implanted and collective memory (essentially, a process of brainwashing that involves the fabrication of an image or story, recited over-and-over again to the extent that one begins to believe that the image or story is an event that actually occurred) and the manipulative power this psychological condition endows on reality. The man reflects on his past experiences and life in the city, which he then uses as an analogy to explain the contemporary condition of Taipei and its historical relationship to Mainland China. A Short-Story on Forgetting and Remembering investigates how individuals and their localities are shaped through collective history and memory.


Skyscraper (2008)

Wang Qingsong.
The installation featured in the video is about 35 meters high, with a diameter of 45 meters, built by 40 workers within a month or so in Changping County, 30 miles north of Beijing. The scaffolding iron bars are painted with gold colour to make them look shiny and golden under the sunshine. This golden scaffolding signifies the glory/wonder of drastic changes in urbanisation drive. The soundtrack dubbed at the end of “Silent Night” melody together with colourful fireworks celebrating the Chinese New Year creates a very peaceful while melancholy world.

“Through this video piece, I want to analyse how dramatic social changes, in particular, in terms of skyscraper, happens in China and how it has nothing to do with humanity . This ‘Skyscraper’ is like a Greek genie that grows from a smoky ground and pops up drastically. The whole process of this scaffolding construction emulates the process of beginning to end construction of a potential building.”
-Wang Qingsong