If the earth is not curvature, our eastern tune would have collided with yours.



Born in China, Siying Zhou is a visual artist whose practice draws upon her Chinese heritage and her social status as an Asian female immigrant in the West. In producing installations, Siying uses spatial structures and the materiality of various media, including video, photography, performance, drawings and text, to undertake her research concerning cultural difference and cultural representation, and to generate ontological discourse regarding Asian immigrants and epistemological experiences formed in the visual arts. Siying’s artworks have been exhibited nationally and internationally and are also held in private collections. She earned her Master of Fine Art at the Victorian College of the Arts, the University of Melbourne, in 2018.



If the earth is not curvature, our eastern tune would have collided with yours.

Two realms of imaginations voyage through time to the past. One unfolds at a conservator’s desk at the Art Centre Melbourne. Amid gentle hands and watchful eyes, the items in the Peking opera costume collection unveil their stories. Through touch and care, the conservator evokes an echo of the past – the bygone performances are imagined through worn fabrics and aged threads.  From this distant perspective, the conservator weaves fresh narratives about how these items were used and treated by their last owners. Yet, her contemplation is not confined to performance alone; it reaches into the imagination of Chinese culture. These costumes, guardians of memories, are more than artifacts that refer to a past performance, but a representational instance of Chinese culture. Now, forming a part of the expansive collection at the Art Centre Melbourne, they serve the interests of the Australian public as emblems of both Beijing opera and Chinese culture.


The second journey to the past happens inside the Louise Multicultural Community Centre in Box Hill. Here the Chinese Beijing Opera Club of Melbourne has been used for Beijing opera singing rehearsals for more than a decade. Founded in 1988, the club thrives today in the hands of Chinese immigrants. Most of them migrated to Australia in their adulthood and are now reaching senior citizen status. By articulating and singing, they iterate ancient stories in Chinese culture, that once shaped their perception of life, sending themselves momentarily back to a familiar and joyful past.


Australia offers a unique ecological space and social history for today’s immigrants to glean fragments of distant worlds. While the music and singing voice of the Beijing opera envelope these practitioners inside another space and time, the tendrils of their sounds extend to reach wide and deep into the Australian landscape. They intertwine with the sound of kookaburras, rustling gum tree leaves, the flow of the Murray-Darling river and the ancient songs sung by Australia’s traditional owners.


In this exhibition, these imaginations are conjured through the video, audio and text presentation of performances by the Chinese Beijing Opera Club of Melbourne and the Peking opera costume collection of the Arts Centre Melbourne. By juxtaposing various binaries: the cultural preservation efforts by the Chinese immigrants through Beijing opera singing rehearsal vs the institutional practice of conserving acquired cultural objects in Australia; old Chinese stories told by Chinese immigrants through Beijing opera vs the past embedded in the presence of a contemporary Australian landscape;  and Australia’s cultural landscape as experienced by the Chinese immigrants vs its portrayal in the mainstream media, particularly the tourism industry, this exhibition prompts contemplation about Chinese identity against the backdrop of Australia’s narrative tapestry, and the intricate relationship between artistic representation and cultural representation.


Within the realm of this shared imagination, Beijing opera can be seen not only as an ethnographic presentation, but also a contemporary art subject; the experience of Chinese identity in Australia might just be an experience of Australian identity.



This exhibition is the first artistic outcome of the project under the same title. This project takes place on the lands of Kulin people and acknowledges the Wurundjeri, Bunurong and Boon Wurrung, the Traditional Owners of the land where is known today as the Great Dandenong Green Wedge.


It is supported and funded by Culture Fund, Copyright Agency.



I would like to thank everyone who has contributed and supported the development of this project and the production of video and sound works.


In particular,

Carmela Lonetti, Conservator, Art Centre Melbourne

Claudia Funder, Research Coordinator, Collections, Art Centre Melbourne

Takeshi Kondo & Jonathan Orrell, Videographers

Ai Yamamoto, Sound artist.

Candice Mars Williamson, Colorist

Ariel Blum, Sound engineer

Members of the Chinese Beijing opera club of Melbourne:

??? Wang I-chang, ??Hsü Min, ???Huang Chieh-tung, ???Sun Shou-I, ???Che’en Shu-ling, ??? Cheng Hsiu-chuan, ??? Liu Ching-ch’üan, ?? Feng Lei.

Yundi Wang & Alena Hope, Production assistants

John Young & Sean Lowry, Mentors.

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