I am a heart beating in the world: Diaspora Pavilion 2, Sydney
4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, in partnership with the International Curators Forum (ICF) and Campbelltown Arts Centre, presents I am a heart beating in the world: Diaspora Pavilion 2 from 22 May – 25 July 2021. The exhibition considers the navigations, imaginings and lived experiences of six artists based in Australia, the UK and the Caribbean: Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Kashif Nadim Chaudry, Lindy Lee, Leyla Stevens, Zadie Xa and Daniela Yohannes.
Curated by Adelaide Bannerman, Mikala Tai and Jessica Taylor, the exhibition is an ongoing project that explores the distinct and shared reality of living at a distance to ancestral homes. Belonging to a diaspora means that connection to these ancestral homes is often maintained through memories, myths and traditions.
I am a heart beating in the world: Diaspora Pavilion 2 is as much an exhibition as it is a research project, underpinned by fieldwork and reviews of how artists, curators, theorists and institutions engage with diaspora as a topic.
Kashif Nadim Chaudry presents two sculptures, Hareem (2010) and Cabal (2020), which consider the cultural and social forces that inform his experiences as a gay man of Pakistani heritage in the UK. Lindy Lee explores the feelings of absence in the diaspora in the works Fire in the Immanence of Unfolding (2020), Fire and Dew (2020), and Quiescent Mind (2020), and the value of family photographs in Birth and Death (2002) and Twinning Through Jade Bamboo (2015). Daniela Yohannes also incorporates family photos into her collages a series of self-truths (2018), and offers a meditation on our relationships to ‘homelands’ in the film Atopias: I Have Left That Dark Cave Forever. My Body Has Blended With Hers (2019).
Leyla Stevens’ photographic diptych Safe Passage (2013) and film Our Sea is Always Hungry (2018) interrogate what is seen and unseen in the Balinese landscape. Abdul-Rahman Abdullah exhibits two new sculptures, Buraq (2020) and Throne Room (2021), alongside Merantau (2016), all of which connect in different ways to his ancestry in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Zadie Xa’s large tapestry works Pilgrimage 2 Family Through the Portal of a Green Ghost (2019) and its counterpart Pilgrimage 2 Family Through the Portal of a Blue Ghost (2019) and film installation Child of Magohalmi and the Echoes of Creation (2019) imagine new worlds informed by Korean creation myths.
The exhibition is the first of a series of international events in Sydney, London (UK), Venice (Italy) and online that culminate in the International Curators Forum’s (ICF) Diaspora Pavilion 2 presented in collaboration with 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art.
I am a heart beating in the world: Diaspora Pavilion 2, Leyla Stevens, Our Sea is Always Hungry, 2018, single channel video, stereo sound, 13:16 mins, courtesy the artist.
I am a heart beating in the world: Diaspora Pavilion 2, Daniela Yohannes, A Gathering of God’s Land, 2018, digital collage, courtesy the artist.
I am a heart beating in the world: Diaspora Pavilion 2, Lindy Lee, Quiescent Mind, 2020, Chinese ink, fire and rain, courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney. Photo: Aaron Anderson.
I am a heart beating in the world: Diaspora Pavilion 2, Zadie Xa, Child of Magohalmi and the Echoes of Creation, live performance as part of Art Night London, 2019. Devised with and performed by Iris Chan, Jia-Yu Corti, Mary Feliciano, Jihye Kim and Yumino Seki, percussion: Jihye Kim, choreographed by Jia-Yu Corti and Yumino Seki. Image: Matt Rowe.
Abdul-Rahman Abdullah (b. Port Kembla, Australia 1977 lives and works in Perth, Australia) is a sculptor whose practice explores the different ways that memory can inhabit and emerge from familial spaces. Drawing on the narrative capacity of animal archetypes, crafted objects and the human presence, Abdullah aims to articulate physical dialogues between the natural world, politics and the agency of culture. Recent exhibitions include The National, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia (2019), Dark Horizons, Pataka Art + Museum, Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand (2017) and Magic Object; Adelaide Biennale of Australian Art, Adelaide, Australia (2016).
Kashif Nadim Chaudry (b. Nottingham, United Kingdom 1976 lives and works in Nottingham, United Kingdom) is informed by his family heritage in tailoring which has influenced and focused his practice around the importance of materiality and craftsmanship. His work is characterised by the working, shaping and moulding of physical objects through the use of elaborate textile-based techniques to create monumental installations from fabric and found objects. Negotiating his identity as a British born gay man of Pakistani Muslim heritage much of Chaudry’s work questions how people choose to position themselves in the world. In relation, it is increasingly the sculptural and three-dimensional possibilities within his work that address the idea of positioning power, the sacred and the ceremonial. Recent exhibitions include What is Home at National Trust Croome Court, Worcester (2019),The Three Graces, Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK (2016), and Swags & Tails as part of the Asia Triennial, Manchester, UK (2014).
Lindy Lee (b. Brisbane, Australia 1954 lives and works in Byron Bay, Australia) has an expansive practice that explores her Chinese ancestry through Taoism and Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism – philosophies that see humanity and nature as inextricably linked. Symbolic gestures and processes that call on the element of chance are often used to produce a galaxy of images that embody the intimate connections between human existence and the cosmos. Rather than singular visual statements, they are thoughtful objects where meaning emerges from sustained meditation. Notable exhibitions include the major survey exhibition Lindy Lee: Moon in a Dew Drop, Museum of Contemporary Art (2020-2021); the group exhibition Divided Worlds: Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia (2018). Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom, The University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane, Australia (2014)
Leyla Stevens (b. Cooroy, Australia 1982, lives and works between Bali, Indonesia and Sydney, Australia) is an Australian-Balinese artist and researcher who works predominantly within moving image and photography. Her practice is informed by ongoing concerns around gesture, ritual, spatial encounters, transculturation and counter histories. Working within modes of representation that shift between the documentary and speculative fictions, her work deals with a notion of counter archives and alternative genealogies. In 2021, Leyla Stevens was awarded the 66th Blake Prize for her work Kidung/Lament. Recent exhibitions include her solo presentations Dua Dunia, curated by Rachel Ciesla, at PS Art Space, Perth Festival (2021), A Line in the Sea, West Space, Melbourne, PHOTO 21 Festival (2021), Their Sea is Always Hungry, UTS Gallery, Sydney, Australia (2019). Recent group exhibitions include The National 2021, Art Gallery of News South Wales (2021), Breathing Room (collaboration with Woven Kolektif), Cement Fondue, Sydney, Australia (2019), BEAUT 19, Brisbane & Elsewhere Art UnTriennial, Brisbane, Australia (2018) and the John Fries Award, UNSW Galleries, Sydney, Australia (2018).
Zadie Xa (b. Vancouver on unceded Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh territory 1983, lives and works in London, UK.) produces work informed by her experiences within the Korean diaspora, as well as the environmental and cultural context of the Pacific Northwest. Forces of distance and relation—familial, cultural, spiritual—shape her constantly evolving notions of self. Her work often features garments, including cloaks and masks, used for performance, protection or ceremony. Xa’s practice is highly collaborative, and she has developed ongoing exchanges with dancers, musicians and actors. Since 2006, Xa has worked closely with artist Benito Mayor Vallejo. Recent solo projects include, “Moon Poetics 4 Courageous Earth Critters and Dangerous Day Dreamers”, Remai Modern, Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of Métis, Saskatoon Canada (2020-21), “Child of Magohalmi and the Echoes of Creation”, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, UK (2020), Art Night London 2019 and “Meetings on Art” performance program for the 58th Venice Biennale 2019. Xa was one of the recipients of the Sobey Art Award in 2020, which for the first time was awarded to all 25 nominees.
Daniela Yohannes (b. 1982, lives and works in Guadeloupe in the French Caribbean) uses her own Ethiopian-Eritrean heritage as a lens in her work to reflect upon the racialised movement and conditional belonging of African diaspora. Through abstract portraiture and storytelling across multiple media, Yohannes explores the overlap of individual and collective subconscious and desire, and the destruction caused by displacement. Her work dwells on alternative Black realities, considering the bonds between herself, her family and other communities through magical symbolism. By embracing forms of hybridity and considering the artefacts of diaspora as a means of travel in themselves, she has built a dedicated interdimensional machine from emotionally charged objects.
Adelaide Bannerman (she/her) is a freelance curator from London. She works for International Curators Forum, arts and science commissioning agency, Invisible Dust and commercial gallery Tiwani Contemporary who exhibit and represent practitioners and contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. Covering curation, project management, mentoring and consultation, Bannerman has been practising for 22 years, producing commissions, exhibitions, events and learning. Institutions that she’s worked for include: Iniva (Institute of International Visual Art), Autograph ABP, Arts Council England, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, Tate, Live Art Development Agency, South London Gallery, Platform London, and the 198 Gallery. She initiated the research residency programme, Never Done in 2018, and is a trustee of Idle Women, Lancashire, UK and PUBLICS, Helsinki, Finland.
Mikala Tai is a curator, researcher and academic specialising in Australian and Asian art and is currently the Head of Visual Arts at the Australia Council for the Arts. Most recently she was the Director of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art where she collaborated with local, national and international organisations to strengthen ties between Australia and Asia. Recent curatorial projects include ‘Nusra Latif Qureshi: Strategies of Intent’ (2019), ‘Xiao Lu: Impossible Dialogue’ (2019) co-curated with Claire Roberts and Xu Hong and ‘Justine Youssef: All Blessings, All Curses’ (2018).
She has taught at undergraduate and postgraduate level at Monash University, Melbourne University and Royal Melbourne Institute for Technology and regularly contributes to publications and catalogues such as ‘Abdul-Rahman Abdullah: Everything is True’ (John Curtin Gallery, 2021), ‘She Persists’ (NGV, 2020), Ocula, Art Collector, Art Monthly, Vault and Photofile. In 2015 she received her PhD from UNSW Art & Design examining the influence of the Global City on China’s local art infrastructure.
Jessica Taylor is a Barbadian curator and producer based in London. As the Head of Programmes of ICF, Jessica managed the ‘Beyond the Frame’ and ‘Diaspora Pavilion’ professional development programmes, and co-curated the ‘Diaspora Pavilion’ exhibitions in Venice and Wolverhampton. She has co-curated film and performance programmes such as ‘Migrating Cities’ as part of the Spark Festival in Hong Kong, ‘Sensational Bodies’ as part of the Jerwood Staging Series, and ‘Monster and Island’ with artist Sheena Rose at the Royal Academy London. Jessica also produced the exhibition ‘Arrivants: Art and Migration in the Anglophone Caribbean World’ at the Barbados Museum and the multi-site programme ‘Curating the International Diaspora’ in Sharjah, Barbados and Martinique. Jessica’s curatorial practice stems from an interest in testing and developing contemporary exhibition models for exploring matters of cultural contact and exchange, migration and movement, and transnationalism. She received a BA in Art History and Philosophy from McGill University in Montreal and an MA in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art in London, the dissertation for which is part of an ongoing research project on the development of national art institutions in the English-speaking Caribbean. Her research at the RCA was linked to her work around collections and archives at the Barbados Museum, which aims to underscore both the continued relevance and renewed tasks of national art institutions, as well as the importance of constantly re-developing infrastructures to support and complicate local, regional and global narratives around national identity.
I am a heart beating in the world: Diaspora Pavilion 2, Sydney is presented in partnership with International Curators Forum and with support from Outset. This project has been supported by The British Council.