Insults, violence and vandalism – Asian Australians and Asians living in Australia have been subjected to a huge increase in racist incidents since the advent of COVID-19.
At the height of the global pandemic between January and October 2020, almost 85% percent of Asian Australians were subjected to at least one racist incident, according to an Australian National University report. Our partner, Asian Australian Alliance developed the landmark COVID-19 Racism Incident Survey, collecting over 600 reports of anti-Asian racism. Although COVID-19 sparked a wave of anti-Chinese and anti-Asian racism, this particular brand of prejudice isn’t new in Australia.
Diversity Arts Australia also received reports of Covid racism through our three ‘Lost Work for Creatives of Colour during Covid’ surveys. We responded with I Am Not A Virus Australia, an artist-led project that provided a platform for artists to confront these issues. It highlights and focuses on the voice of Asian-Australian artists affected by the racism unleashed by the pandemic era. The project responds to the increase in racist attacks including verbal threats, physical intimidation, denial of services, workplace discrimination and being coughed and spat upon since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project is an initiative of Diversity Arts Australia in partnership with the Asian Australian Alliance, Democracy in Colour and 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art with financial support from the Australia Council for the Arts, Creative Victoria, Create NSW, City of Sydney, City of Parramatta and Inner West Council.
Acute Actions: Responses To I Am Not A Virus is a two-part exhibition that presents the work of twelve artists commissioned through Diversity Arts Australia’s I Am Not A Virusinitiative. 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. This exhibition series 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.
Curators: Con Gerakaris and Reina Takeuchi
Curatorial Assistant: Dylan Goh
Producer (DARTS): Kevin Bathman
Photos by Kai Wasikowski, courtesy of 4A Centre of Contemporary Asian Art
Reclaiming Narratives: Melbourne artists respond to I Am Not A Virus highlights and focuses on the voice of Asian-Australian artists affected by the racism unleashed by the pandemic era from a Melbourne perspective. The project responds to the increase in racist attacks including verbal threats, physical intimidation, denial of services, workplace discrimination and being coughed and spat upon since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Executive Producer: Lena Nahlous
Curators: Wilson Yeung Chun Wai and Kevin Bathman
Arts Administrative Coordinator: Katherine Lee
Exhibitions & Events Coordinator: Jan Wing Ting Sze
Project support: Ava Dong, Helen Chung, Jahan Rezakhanlou-Taubman and Mara Braun
Exhibition design: Tiger Yuanlong Zheng
Advisory support: Dr Tammy Wong Hulbert (RMIT) and Kelly Yoon
The Melbourne project is an initiative of Diversity Arts Australia in partnership with the Asian Australian Alliance, Democracy in Colour and 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art with financial support from the Australia Council for the Arts, Creative Victoria, Create NSW, City of Sydney, City of Parramatta and Inner West Council.
Project supporters from Melbourne include RMIT Curatorial Collective, Fringe Festival, Creative Brimbank, Melbourne Fringe Festival, RMIT Contemporary Art and Social Transformation (CAST) research group, RMIT INTERSECT, and RMIT Student Life.
This exhibition was also curated as part of Melbourne Fringe Festival 2021 from 30 September to 17 October 2021.
‘Reclaiming Narratives’, 2021, RMIT Project Space / Spare Room. Photo by Mark Ashkanasy © RMIT Culture
Inner West Sydney Exhibition
Rituals of Resistance: Inner West Artists respond to I Am Not A Virus is an artist-led exhibition to confront racism, bust stereotypes and provide counter-narratives to the increase in anti-Asian racism as a result of Covid-19.exhibition. With support from the Inner West Council, Diversity Arts commissioned 10 Inner West artists to create new developments spanning video, sculpture, ceramics, photography, performance, craft and spoken word responding to the impacts of heightened anti-Asian racism. Through this exhibition, we bear witness – to racism’s effects and to the trauma experiences as a lived reality for Asian/Asian Australians. We also bear witness to these artists’ resistance and strength, through the formidable, humorous and playful counter-narratives that they present in this exhibition. This exhibition ran from 9-25 March 2023 at Thirning Villa, Ashfield.
Executive Producer: Lena Nahlous
Creative Producers and Curators: Kevin Bathman and Carielyn Tunion
Executive Producer and Installation Design: Safdar Ahmed and Zeina Iaali, Refugee Art Project
Communications and Marketing: Glaiza Perez and Simone Amelia Jordan
Diversity Arts Event Team: Radhika Ram Tevita (Business Manager), Joanne Cooper (Admin Officer and EA), Dr Alexia Derbas (Research and Policy Manager), Ayesha Mahmud (DARTS Intern/Volunteer).
Photos by Nancy Trieu and Anna Hay