Acute Actions: Responses To I Am Not a Virus




Open Thursday to Saturdays, 10am – 4pm

Part 1: 15 April – 15 May 2021

Part 2: 3 June – 3 July 2021

Acute Actions: Responses To I Am Not A Virus presents the work of twelve artists commissioned through Diversity Arts Australia’s I Am Not A Virus initiative. This selection represents a range of artistic practices and conceptual reflections; these include acts of processing and healing from the trauma of racial prejudice experienced by Asian people. Through ceramics, photography, performance, music, craft, and storytelling, these artists have wrestled with racial prejudice and reframed multiculturalism to reflect this new lived experience.

Exhibition Documentation

All images: Kai Wasikowski

A woman with long black hair in a white blouse and yellow full-length skirt stands on a street outside a gallery glass front, looking at a yellow knitted sweater with sleeves knitted to be 1.5 metres long. The decal sign on the glass front reads 'Acute Actions: Responses to I Am Not A Virus. 15 April - 15 May'

Acute Actions: Responses To I Am Not A Virus (installation view), 2021,4A @ 101-111 William Street, Sydney. Right: Andrea Srisurapon, Covid Clean, 2021, photographic print. Left: Sophia Cai, Safety Yellow Woman, 2020-2021, handknitted wool garment – adult size, yarn support provided by Fancy Tiger Crafts. Courtesy the artists.

A yellow knitted sweater with sleeves knitted to be 1.5 metres long, hanging in front of a glass wall. The end of the sleeves are knitted with layered patterns of stripes, arrows and checkered boxes. The collar and hem are knitted with short vertical black stripes.

Acute Actions: Responses To I Am Not A Virus (installation view), 2021,4A @ 101-111 William Street, Sydney. Sophia Cai, Safety Yellow Woman, 2020-2021, handknitted wool garment – adult size, yarn support provided by Fancy Tiger Crafts. Courtesy the artist.

A male-presenting figure and a female-presenting figure sit back to back on white stools in a gallery space against a white curtain wall. The male figure is dressed in a black hoodie, black shorts and black socks and sneakers, with headphones over his ears as he watches a video work on a wall-mounted television screen. The female figure, dressed in a white blouse and a long cadmium yellow skirt, also has headphones over her ears and is watching a video work on a wall-mounted television screen.

Acute Actions: Responses To I Am Not a Virus (installation view), 2021, 4A @ 101-111 William Street, Sydney. Right: Joe Paradise Lui & Deborah Ong, Laksa, video, 21:02, 2021. Left: Amy Zhang & MaggZ, (qi), video, 3:34, 2021. Courtesy the artists.

A colourful spread of earthenware sculptures imitating a spread of fruit, savoury snacks and East or Southeast Asian-inspired desserts. The spread features multicoloured fortune cookies, glutinous rice cakes, cakes rolled in shredded coconut and green, pink and red sticky rice cakes cut in the shapes of diamonds. They are all arranged on white ceramic bowls and plates, which are set near a pair of ceramic white thongs and white sandals painted with a fictional green logogram.

Acute Actions: Responses To I Am Not A Virus (detail), 2021, 4A @ 101-111 William Street, Sydney. Jayanto Tan, No Friends But The Ghosts (Ceng Beng), 2020 – ongoing, ceramics, embroidery on found fabrics. Courtesy the artist.

Close-up of 12 textile dumplings arranged in rows on a white plinth. The dumplings are embroidered with Asian-focused racial slurs such as Yellow Peril, Fresh off the Boat, Chink and Ching Chong

Acute Actions: Responses To I Am Not A Virus(detail), 2021, 4A @ 101-111 William Street, Sydney. Right: Sai-Wai Foo, Eat Your Words, 2020, textile installation, 12 individual textile dumplings, hand embroidered racial slur. Courtesy the artist.

View from outside a gallery glass front of four photographic prints in white frames. The first shows a figure in a white hazmat suit and goggles standing against a blank white wall. Their palms are pressed together in prayer-like fashion front of their body, as a traditional Thai greeting. The second and third photograph show bright yellow paint being poured over the figure's head and splashing the wall behind them. The last photograph shows a female-presenting figure with the hazmat suit, now splashed with yellow paint, pulled down past her bare shoulders. Her palms are still pressed together as she looks at the camera.

Acute Actions: Responses To I Am Not a Virus (installation view), 2021,4A @ 101-111 William Street, Sydney. Right: Andrea Srisurapon, Covid Clean, 2021, photographic print. Left: Jayanto Tan, No Friends But The Ghosts (Ceng Beng), 2020 – ongoing, ceramics, embroidery on found fabrics. Courtesy the artist. Courtesy the artists.


Artist Biographies: 


Sophia Cai is a curator and arts writer based in Narrm/Melbourne, Australia. She currently teaches as a sessional lecturer in the department of Critical and Theoretical Studies, Victorian College of Arts at the University of Melbourne, while also maintaining an independent curating and writing practice. Sophia is particularly interested in Asian art history, the intersection between contemporary art and craft, as well as feminist methodologies and community-based practices.


Sai-Wai Foo is a Malaysian-born Chinese, Naarm/Melbourne-based emerging/early-career artist. Her training in fashion design influences and informs her practice through technique, finish and materials. Foo is a bricoleur who collects discarded and redundant items and gives them a new life through her sculptural practice. Working primarily in paper and textiles, Foo’s materiality prompts viewers to consider discarded materials and to reconsider how things are used in our over-curated and insatiable consumer society. Her pieces invite a more intimate engagement, due to their scale and delicacy.


A proponent of the values of narrative across all forms of media and practices, Jin Hien Lau believes that in order to tell a good story, you must listen to a thousand better ones from everyone and everywhere first. Based in Sydney but a frequent collaborator on projects across Asia, Jin has applied his craft to fields ranging from prints, comics, illustrations and animation.


Melbourne pianist and composer, Nathan Liow, recently exhibited his collaborative work, “Music For Eyes” at Incinerator Gallery, which was also featured in the “New Movement Exhibition” at Cost Annex, Boston MA. His digital work, “Artifacts”, exhibited at West Space Gallery for Next Wave Festival. Liow’s compositions have appeared on a diverse range of mediums including for MIFF Official Selection film “Creswick” by filmmaker Natalie James, and other film and music festivals globally. He has performed alongside multiple ARIA recipient Andrea Keller at Melbourne’s Jazzlab, and during lockdown, he was commissioned by City Of Melbourne to broadcast a series of concerts from Tempo Rubato in Brunswick.


Zachary Lopez is a performer and choreographer. He explores the duality between his identities to understand cultural lineage and nationality within his practice. He has been commissioned for the Keir Choreographic Awards 2020 and by Sydney Dance Company, premiering works in Carriageworks (NSW) and Dancehouse (VIC). Zachary has been awarded a Young Creative Leaders Fellowship (Create NSW), an Australia Council Artstart Grant and creative development grants. He is currently working with Marrugeku and Legs on the wall and has worked with Punchdrunk’s co-artistic director Maxine Doyle (UK), Sydney Dance Company as an associate artist, Co3 (WA), The Farm (QLD), Opera Australia and with artists Amrita Hepi, Cass Mortimer-Eipper and Charmene Yap among others.


Joe Paradise Lui is a founding member of Renegade Productions. Within its aegis he creates, writes, directs, designs and composes theatre and performance works. His most recent work was Cephalopod, presented at the Blue Room Theatre in 2019. Joe Paradise Lui is the Spirit of the Fringe World. He is also a part of the professional and independent theatre industry in Perth as a director, writer, and a sound and lighting designer. He has worked with most Perth based companies including BSSTC, Perth Theatre Company, Yirra Yaakin theatre company and the vast majority of independent companies.


Originally from Singapore, Deborah Ong is proudly of Hainanese and Peranakan Chinese heritage. She came to Australia in 2004 to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, fell in love with the city of Melbourne, and officially made it her home in 2013. She’s spent the past 10 years working as a qualified chef, and more recently has also been involved in teaching in local community centres, and pursuing postgraduate studies in Nutrition and Public Health. Deborah is passionate about food and its role in cultural identity. She finds joy in tearing down the walls of difference and bringing people together around the table with dinner and stories.


Using photography to capture her personal and cultural everyday experiences, Andrea Srisurapon explores concepts surrounding cross-culture, identity and Australia’s social and cultural landscape. Reflecting on her cultural experiences of East and West and celebrating her family’s heritage, Srisurapon challenges the stereotypes of racism, bigotry and cultural misconception and attempts to discover what is means to be a Thai Australian. Andrea graduated from Sydney College of the Arts and now works and resides in the city of Sydney.


Sweet and Sour is a collective focusing on providing a voice for Asian-Australians. Being Asian today in Australia is not easy. When more than one culture demands your allegiance, there is a bizarre sense of existing between multiple worlds, yet not fully belonging to either. We are international students, mixed-race individuals and second-generation immigrants; many of us belong to multiple cultural identities, and face issues relating to belonging, racism and identity. Sweet and Sour was conceived with the notion of creating a space for individuals and communities with Asian heritage in Australia to share our thoughts, experiences and creativity. Members in Sweet and Sour: Chetan Kharbanda, Eleanor Hsu, James Yang, Joanne Leong, Malcolm Fortaleza, Melodie Liu, Sydney Farey, Viv Wang and Yvonne Yong.


Jayanto Tan is a visual artist who was born and raised in a small village in North Sumatra to a Sumatran Christian mother and Guandong Taoist father. As an immigrant artist living in Sydney, who fled poverty and political repression in search of a better life, his practice blends Eastern and Western mythologies with the reality of current events. His works have been selected for the 66th Blake Prize and a solo show at the Verge Gallery. He won the 11th Greenway Art Prize in a small sculpture category. Jayanto holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Masters of Fine Arts from National Art School.


Amy Zhang is a movement artist that specialises in performance and movement direction. Using dance as her storytelling vehicle, she combines her unique eye for aesthetics to bring a new life to movement in all forms of media and live performance. Amy has most recently shared her work in this year’s Vitalstatistix Adhocracy and Brisbane Festival.


MaggZ is a Melbourne-based movement and multidisciplinary artist, specialised in waacking – a dance style originated in 1970s LA from the LGBTQ community, predominantly involving arm movements. Traversing amongst dance battles, live performances, installations and interdisciplinary collaborations with other artists, MaggZ aspires to explore the possibilities of art and creativity whilst to honour the unique being of self and others. 

Bio captions:

Sophia Cai, headshot; courtesy the artist / Sai-Wai Foo, headshot; courtesy the artist /
Jin Hien Lau, headshot; courtesy the artist / Nathan Liow, headshot; courtesy the artist / Zachary Lopez, headshot; courtesy the artist /Joe Paradise Lui, headshot; courtesy the artist; image: Simon Pynt / Deborah Ong, headshot; courtesy the artist / Andrea Srisurapon, headshot; courtesy the artist / Sweet and Sour, headshot; courtesy the artist / Jayanto Tan, headshot; courtesy the artist / Amy Zhang, headshot; courtesy the artist; image: Ben Garcia / MaggZ, headshot; courtesy the artist

This exhibition is presented by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and Diversity Arts Australia, as part of the I Am Not A Virus project. Supported by Australia Council, Create NSW, Creative Victoria, City of Sydney, City of Parramatta and Inner West Council.