Arts Centre Melbourne Presents Asia TOPA Public Program

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The Asia TOPA Public Program, a series of creative interventions, talks and panel discussions, masterclasses and performances, is for curious audiences who wish to connect more deeply with Asia TOPA's shows, artists, their lived experiences and performance practices.

In collaboration with Asia TOPA partners, the Public Program, curated by Dr Sadiah Boonstra (Asia Scholar, the University of Melbourne), will take place across Melbourne and invite audiences to further explore the festival program.

Over three periods of residency in Melbourne and numerous visits to commissioned artists across Asia, Boonstra has collaborated with leading cultural institutions to curate the Asia TOPA Public Program traveling extensively throughout the Asia-Pacific to connect with artists during their developments.

"I developed the Public Program with the intention of bringing together accessible, Asia-focused discussions. The idea was to show that these works come from real, lived experiences, and offer insight into the productions and broader practices of these artists within the Asia-Pacific regions," says Boonstra.

By developing these new spaces for new conversations, audiences can further understand the creative impulse of the countries and regions these works comes from, and contextualise them to broader themes and topics related to art, artists and their daily life and realities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Arts & Politics Series

The Arts & Politics Series is a discussion forum where artists and scholars reflect on the wider geo-political contexts in which a number of Asia TOPA projects have been developed. The series offers deeper insight into the interplay of art and politics in the Asia-Pacific region, and how artists navigate and negotiate spaces within this context. It also explores how artists and works within the Asia TOPA program are connected to the broader trends and dynamics at play in the Asia-Pacific region.

Forum: The Planet - A Lament
In partnership with the University of Melbourne, co-curated with Edwin Jurriens (UoM)
Venue: The University of Melbourne, Yasuko Hiraoka Myer Room
Date: Tuesday 18 February
Time: 6 - 7:30pm
Speakers: Garin Nugroho and Dr Sadiah Boonstra

Environmental traumas leave deep traces on the landscape and on the body. This forum takes a cross-disciplinary and comparative perspective to concepts of communal trauma and a destroyed community struggling with the consequences of a disaster. Garin Nugroho's The Planet - A Lament is the starting-point for this look into a lost world and its history; present and future.

Forum: Sipat Lawin
Venue: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall
Date: Friday 28 February
Time: 1 - 2pm
Speakers: To be announced
Moderator: Emily Sexton

The satire Are You Ready To Take The Law Into Your Own Hands is deeply rooted in pop culture, community and politics in the Philippines and Australia. In this forum, the creators of the work, Sipat Lawin, discuss the connection between pop culture, theatre and politics in both the Philippines and within the Filipino diaspora in Australia.

Salon Series: Intercultural Artistic Collaborations

The Salon Series: Intercultural Artistic Collaborations aims to investigate and discuss inter-cultural artistic collaborations. How do artists from different disciplines and cultural backgrounds come together to collaborate? What challenges do they face, and how does inter-cultural collaboration differ from other artistic practices? And most importantly, what does the inter-cultural context add to the process?

Salon Series: Dragon Ladies Don't Weep
In partnership with Asia Society at NGV
Venue: Theatre, The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square
Date: Saturday 15 February
Time: 2 - 3pm
Speakers: Margaret Leng Tan, Tamara Saulwick, Erik Griwswold and Kok Heng Leun
Moderator: Leah Jing

How do you create a sonic portrait of a music icon in an intercultural context?

Join Asia Society Australia at Asia TOPA for an in-depth exploration into the making of Dragon Ladies Don't Weep , a Singaporean-Australian work featuring avant-garde music icon Margaret Leng Tan exploring memory, time, control and loss. Pianist Margaret Leng Tan, director Tamara Saulwick, composer Erik Griswold and dramaturg Kok Heng Leun share their experiences and challenges working on what became a very personal sonic memoir that pushed Margaret Leng Tan to connect her background in experimental music into an exploration of new territories in theatre.

This event is open to the public and registration is essential via this link -

Salon Series: SAIGON - Between Life and History
A conversation between Caroline Guiela Nguyen and Benjamin Law
Venue: The Wheeler Centre
Date: Friday 13 March
Time: 6:15 - 7:15pm

Theatre director of SAIGON Caroline Guiela Nguyen speaks with Australian writer Benjamin Law about their respective work in theatre and comedy. Families and individuals across the world carry within themselves the marks left by the changes of our world. Caroline and Benjamin discuss issues of inter-generational experiences in an inter-cultural context as expressed in their work but largely missing from international stages. What are the effects of history and geography on the everyday experiences and identities of people today? What happens when the places where your parents and grandparents lived no longer exist or your parents speak different languages because you grew up in different places?

Salon Series: BLACK TIES
Venue: Common Rooms, Trades Hall
Date: Sunday 23 February
Time: 1 - 2pm
Speakers: Rachael Maza, Tainui Tukiwaho and Amber Curreen

In this behind-the-scenes conversation, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company's Artistic Director Rachael Maza joins Amber Curreen and Tainui Tukiwaho from Te R?"hia Theatre Company to reflect on the making of BLACK TIES, a ground-breaking collaboration between two First Nations theatre companies.

Salon Series: Independent Intercultural Producing - 'Best' Practice, 'Failed' Practice
In partnership with Theatre Network Australia - Victorian Independent Producers Initiative
Venue: Theatre Network Australia - G5/152 Sturt St, Southbank
Date: Friday 20 March
Time: 12:30 - 2:30pm

What does it mean to work as an independent producer across diverse cultural contexts? What are the cultural protocols you need to keep in mind? How does working in a multilingual context shape an artistic collaboration? What does it mean to be a 'producer' when you work in a context where art is a part of everyday life, rather than an artistic 'outcome' or 'product'? How do you navigate complex power dynamics in different cultural contexts?

Theatre Network Australia and Asia TOPA will host this round table discussion with independent producers working across cultures in Australia, the Asia-Pacific and beyond. This event is part of the Victorian Independent Producers Initiative (VIPI), an initiative of the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, delivered in partnership with Theatre Network Australia.

Registrations close Monday 13 March. Registration is essential via this link -

Salon Series: Oedipus Schmoedipus
Venue: The University of Melbourne
Date: Monday 23 March
Time: 1 - 2pm
Speakers: To be announced

What happens when an Australian production is being translated into a different culture and language? How are the interpretations dependent on past, present and future contexts and understanding of a people and a land? This talk seeks to explore these questions through a discussion of the journey of Oedipus Schmoedipus and the artists involved.

Asia TOPA Show Specific Programs

A number of programs have been specifically developed for the respective Asia TOPA projects. The programs named below are specific for their projects and not incorporated into broader streams of programs. Please note that the broader streams, such as the Arts & Politics Series and the MPavilion programs, also include specific programs related to Asia TOPA projects and are mentioned there.

Film Screening: The Seen and Unseen
In partnership with VCA
Venue: VCA, Federation Hall
Date: Monday 17 February
Time: 6pm
Speaker: Kamila Andini

Pre-show introduction and post-show Q&A with film director of The Seen and Unseen, Kamila Andini.

Asia TOPA at MPavilion

During the peak of the festival, Asia TOPA will take over the lunchtime sessions at MPavilion from 19 February - 15 March from 12:30 - 1:30pm. The performative events will showcase upcoming Asia TOPA shows, artist and cultural talks, as well as participatory events and discussions. The program is filled with a wide range of events that are suitable for anyone interested in the performing arts; from newly interested to seasoned workers in the industry. All events are free and open for everyone to join.

Wednesday 19 February - Benjamin Law on Torch the Place
In partnership with Melbourne Theatre Company
Benjamin Law discusses his new work Torch the Place focusing on the representation of Asian-Australian characters on stage.

Friday 21 February - In Conversation with Kamila Andini and Adena Jacobs
In partnership with Performing Lines
Director Kamila Andini and dramaturg Adena Jacobs discuss their artistic collaboration on dance/theatre work The Seen and Unseen.

Saturday 22 February - Meeting Points
In partnership with Australian Art Orchestra
One of Korea's most sought after jazz vocalists Sunny Kim and Yolngu song-man Daniel Wilfred discuss their work Hand to Earth and perform an excerpt.

Sunday 23 February - Bumi Bajra Komunitas from The Seen and Unseen
In partnership with Performing Lines
The young Balinese dancers of Bumi Bajra perform a demonstration of their work as featured in the Asia TOPA show The Seen and Unseen.

Thursday 27 February - Under the Volcano: The Making of Metal
Choreographer Lucy Guerin (Melbourne) and composer Robi Rusdiana (Bandung) share insights into the process of making Metal, an unexpected creative collision between Australian contemporary dance and an Indonesian heavy metal choir. The conversation is accompanied by a live excerpt of Metal performed by Ensemble Tikoro (Bandung). Metal is part of Asia TOPA showing from 24 - 27 February at Arts Centre Melbourne.

Saturday 29 February - Staging Sites
The all-female artist cast of Staging Sites share their work on a new project tracking the travel of birds throughout the Asia-Pacific.

Wednesday 4 March - The Dynamics of Taste
In partnership with Dancehouse
This conversation interrogates the politics of taste and the politics of arts ecologies that define questions of aesthetic value and the systems that support them. In particular, we ask what it means to be a practitioner of 'traditional' art forms in a landscape that privileges 'the contemporary' and how taste can be thought to be hegemonic.

Thursday 5 March - On Contemporaneity
In partnership with Dancehouse
There is a sense in which every artwork is contemporary, emerging according to its moment or time of creation. Yet, the concept of the contemporary in dance is more loaded than that. How might we rethink narrow western centric understandings of art by opening up to more than one sense of time and temporality in art?

Friday 6 March - BYO Lunch Conversations
Bring your lunch and your curiosity in this picnic conversation facilitated by Singapore-born artist Jamie Lewis, joined by a table hosts from a range of artistic, cultural and professional backgrounds. Prod at the boundaries of the multiplicity of the 'Asian-Australian' narrative.

Wednesday 11 March - Epoch Wars
In partnership with Pony Express and Performing Lines
This artist talk features the artists of Epoch Wars on the so-called 'Anthropocene'.

Sunday 15 March - Virtually Intimate
This artist talk features Yen Chou, Artistic Director of Very Mainstream Studio Very Theatre (c??a??ae?? & c??a??a??) and Edwin Kemp Attrill, Artistic Director of ActNow Theatre discussing the convergence of their artistic practices for Virtual Intimacy.


The Masterclasses give insight into the large variety of performance practices within Asia TOPA featuring artists from various disciplines working across the Asia-Pacific. The Masterclasses are open to students and young professionals. Places are limited so book early.

Masterclass Dance: Hip-Hop
In partnership with VCA
Venue: To be announced
Date: Tuesday 18 February
Time: 10:15am - 12pm

Join this Masterclass to get a glimpse into the distinct hip-hop culture in Papua in relation to the development of hip-hop in the Asia-Pacific region. Papuan dancers of The Planet - A Lament will show off their hip-hop practice independently developed in Papua, and their trajectory of incorporating their style into Garin Nugroho's work, The Planet - A Lament. The showings will be connected to the broader dynamics of different hip-hop styles across the Asia-Pacific.

Papuan Dancers: Serraimere Boogie (Boogie), Heinbertho J. B. D. Koirewoa (Douglas), Pricillia Elisabeth Monica (Elis), Paul Amandus Dwaa (Becham)
Accompanied by: Rianto

Masterclass Dance: Meta-Objects
Venue: The University of Melbourne, Interaction Design Lab, Doug McDonell Building
Date: 27 - 28 February
Time: 10am - 6pm

This two-day Art Hack, conducted by MetaObjects and hosted by Interaction Design Lab at the University of Melbourne, explores the diverse application of motion-capture technologies within digital and performance art, and provides an introduction to capturing movements of the body using these tools. On the first day, participants will learn how to capture data using advanced motion-capture systems such as OptiTrack, and how to import and apply the motion data within 3D animation software such as Blender and real-time performance using 3D engines such as Unity. On the second day, participants will work in groups to develop an artistic project. The results will be presented in a public exhibition at the University, coinciding with Melbourne Orientation Week.

Masterclass Dance: Seeta Patel
In partnership with VCA
Venue: To be announced
Date: Saturday 14 March
Time: 11am - 12:30pm
Facilitators: Seeta Patel and Lina Limosani

Trained in Bharatnayam, London-born Seeta Patel shares her practice of merging traditional and contemporary dance with theatre.

Join acclaimed UK Bharatanatyam performer, Seeta Patel and Australian Choreographer Lina Limosani for a one-off introductory workshop. Trained in Bharatanatyam, Seeta Patel will share her practice in this beautifully complex classical form, as both artists delve into the ways in which they merge the traditional art form with contemporary dance to create Not Today's Yesterday. While this workshop does not require experience in Bharatanatyam, participants should have some dance experience.

Masterclass: Virtual Intimacy
In partnership with VCA
Venue: VCA - Studio 3
Date: Monday 16 March
Time: 10:30am - 12pm
Facilitators: Yen Chou and Edwin Kemp Attrill

In a partnership that's spanned over two countries, four cities and across five stages, directors Edwin Kemp Attrill (ActNow Theatre) and Chou Tung Yen (Very Theatre) will be continuing their collaboration to deliver this Masterclass. Co-directors of Virtual Intimacy, Edwin and Yen come from distinctly different backgrounds and experiences. Yen, based in Taiwan and coming from a background of film and theatre, is creating highly visual and technical work. Edwin, based in Adelaide, is creating community-based and participatory storytelling projects with a focus on social justice.

This Masterclass will delve into their experiences of collaboration, introducing participants into the directors' respective practices and give a rare insight into the creative process of Virtual Intimacy. It will explore the integration of different practices, drawing from Edwin's and Yen's experiences and delve into cross-cultural collaboration.

Think Tanks

The Think Tanks are a number of events, round tables and workshops to start conversations and discussions with the intention to develop these into future research and/or artistic projects.

Performing Asia in the Pacific
In partnership with the University of Melbourne, Melbourne Museum
Venue: Faculty of Arts, the University of Melbourne - room to be announced
Date: Friday 21 February
Time: 10am - 5pm
Speakers: To be announced

In the phrase 'Asia-Pacific', the 'Pacific' is often relegated to a hyphenated afterthought; a term subject to Asian geo-political power and dominance. Present-day analysis of the Asia-Pacific region reasserts this narrative as China, Taiwan and Japan as they seek to influence foreign policy, investment and aid in the Pacific. Alternative perspectives counter this narrative by pointing to far longer histories of dynamic exchange that have actively criss-crossed and transformed the Asia-Pacific. Instead of a unified phrase, we see a space of unsettling potential and mutual entanglement.

This one-day event will explore how artists, artistic collaborations, events and processes can help us think critically and differently about what Asia-hyphen-Pacific could mean, what these realignments mean, and what forms they have taken historically and in the present-day at the level of cultural expression and ground-level cross-cultural interactions. The event will gather artists and researchers from across the three regions whose practice and background gives them a unique insight into reconceptualising the Asia-Pacific.

Making Intercultural Performance Happen
In partnership with the University of Melbourne, co-convened with Paul Rae
Venue: Faculty of Arts, the University of Melbourne - room to be announced
Date: Monday 2 March
Time: 9.30am - 1pm
Speakers: To be announced

The practice of developing inter-cultural performance projects both within and beyond current international touring circuits is becoming increasingly commonplace. Yet developing works in an inter-cultural context proves challenging on various levels. This half-day event will map the challenges of producing inter-cultural performances in the Asia-Pacific region.

Directors, producers, dramaturgs and others will share their individual practice and experiences in order to work towards a clearer understanding of the unique challenges faced in inter-cultural performance collaborations, and ways of addressing them. Invited participants in the roundtable discussion have a track record of developing distinctive collaborative works across the Asia-Pacific region.

Pan-Asia in War and Peace: Ho Tzu Nyen's The Kyoto School and Beyond
In partnership with the University of Melbourne
Venue: Faculty of Arts, the University of Melbourne - room to be announced
Date: Tuesday 10 March
Time: 6 - 7:30pm
Speakers: Ho Tzu Nyen, Rustom Bharucha and others

Ho Tzu Nyen is one of Singapore's pre-eminent contemporary artists. His performance The Mysterious Lai Teck will be presented during Asia TOPA and in this talk, Ho will outline his new project The Kyoto School, which stages a series of debates undertaken by a group of Japanese philosophers during the Second World War. Ho will be joined by Professor Rustom Bharucha, one of India's foremost public intellectuals, who will frame Ho's project in relation to the history of 20th century Pan-Asianism, which encompassed and sometimes uncomfortably conjoined imperialism and anti-colonialism. Ho and Bharucha will be joined by a number of other panellists who will flesh out both the history of Pan-Asianism and its treatment in contemporary art.

Staging the Historical Record in Asia and Australia
Venue: Faculty of Arts, the University of Melbourne - room to be announced
Date: Wednesday 11 March
Time: 9:30am - 1pm
Speakers: To be announced

In recent years, there has been a marked trend amongst Asian and Australian performers for revisiting 20th century historical events, notably through archival materials and other forms of documentation. This half-day gathering of performance-makers and scholars considers the reasons for, and implications of, this development. It will survey the ways in which conflicts - both 'hot' and 'cold' - incomplete processes of decolonisation, and tensions between authoritarianism and democracy, in the context of globalisation, have led states, governments and citizens alike to invest heavily, if partially, in interpretations of, and disputes over the past.

At the same time, it examines how artists are finding new aesthetic forms to bring hitherto obscured or misinterpreted historical details to light, as a means of thinking anew about personal, national and regional presents and futures. The event will combine discussions of completed, process-based and in-development performances with recent scholarship around art, cultural memory and historical methods. The aim is not simply to reflect on recent developments, but to identify broader patterns in the work being produced, and to think together about its future forms, scope and impact.

Public Displays of Affection: How Can Artists Rebrand Soft Power?
In partnership with AsiaLink
Venue: Abbotsford Convent - 1 St Heliers St, Abbotsford
Date: Tuesday 3 March
Time: 9am - 5pm

A cross-sectoral forum to debate cultural diplomacy, creative exchange, and the power of artistic influence across the Indo-Pacific. This one-day forum will activate cross-sectoral dialogue between artists, creative producers, arts and culture thought leaders, academics, policy makers, and business leaders from across the region to discuss and debate cultural diplomacy and soft power. The forum also aims to advocate for, and shape an agenda for, a proposed meeting in 2021 of Arts and Culture Ministers from the Indo-Pacific to share best practices, reinforce the value of artistic exchange and influence, and formulate new investment opportunities for arts and culture.

Convened by Asialink Arts
Supported by CoVA, Centre of Visual Art, the University of Melbourne MCCI, Master of Cultural and Creative Industries, Monash University

Notes to Editors

The founding Asia TOPA Consortium consists of Arts Centre Melbourne, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Chunky Move, Federation Square, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Theatre Company, Museums Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, State Library of Victoria, The Australian Ballet, Victorian College of the Arts and the Victorian Opera.

Asia TOPA is a joint initiative of the Sidney Myer Fund and Arts Centre Melbourne with support from the Australian and Victorian governments. With major seed funding from the Sidney Myer Fund, Arts Centre Melbourne has initiated a landmark collaboration with Melbourne's community of culture makers and national arts leaders to introduce powerful new voices from Asia to our stages. Asia TOPA takes place from January to March 2020.

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