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The Context is Complicated

The Context is Complicated

Nikki Lam & Siying Zhou

Opening 01.03.17 6-8pm
Artist Talks 23.03.17 6-7pm

The Context is Complicated is an exhibition of dialogues between Nikki Lam and Siying Zhou. A durational exhibition that presents two perspectives of a dialogue encompassing themes of appropriation, awkward encounters, migration and identity, comical moments of cultural misunderstandings and other complicated contexts for definitions.

The first part of the exhibition provokes uncertain nature of stillness. Lam’s Falling Leaf Returns to its Roots (2013), a performative video responding to Max Dupain’s iconic image of Sunbaker (1937). A Chinese analogy of life, travels and its perpetual purpose of return, Falling Leaf Returns to its Roots signifies the circulation of knowledge and belonging. Zhou’s Disturbances of the Stillness (2016) responds with a still-life image of plastic replicas of Australian native flowers, juxtaposed in the style of a 16th Century European painting. The image’s Australianess is contested with its own capitalist ideal. Stillness disrupted, both video portraits reveal the dissonance within their colonial contexts.

In Part II, the artists investigate the ‘third space’ as a potential resolution to the questions provoked in Part I. Lam’s Uprooting Mandarin (2015) focuses on the forced repetition of violent uprooting of a small seedless mandarin tree, as a metaphor for migration, misunderstanding and the precarious definition of identity. The Burning (2016) by Zhou is a large candle coil, which combines multiple religious symbols: incense of Buddhism/Taoism and white candle of Christianity. By combining two burning rituals, it compares and resolves cultural dualities to the human instinct when facing the unknown and the unreachable. This work wraps the Lam and Zhou’s dialogues of uncertainty and identity with a slight glimpse of optimism... until the screens of PART I brighten again and the viewer is once again invited back to this perpetual conversation of complexities.


Nikki Lam is a visual artist and independent curator. From video and installation, to writing and performative work, her practice engages in the complexity of belonging through the exploration of self, memory and space. Born in Hong Kong (1988), She has a particular interest in the translations of post-colonial identities in the hybrid world. Her work has been shown as part of SafARI 2014, Seventh Gallery, BUS Projects, The Ferry Gallery (Bangkok, Thailand), Galleria Marcollini (Forli, Italy), and toured around the world with Over View International Festival of Video Art. Her most recent curatorial projects include Screen as a Room (2016) at The Substation and Channels Festival (2015) – a 10-day festival with 29 events across Melbourne and online. Nikki is the Artistic Director (2014-present) of Channels Festival, Australia’s only video art biennial showcases contemporary video practices and continues to investigate the evolution of video culture. She is also the visual arts editor (2014-present) at Peril Magazine, an arts and culture journal with Asian-Australian focus.

Born in China, Siying Zhou is an interdisciplinary artist. Her work is predominantly presented in the format of installation. Using various physical arrangements of objects and images, Zhou contextualises the subjectivity of her works and creates a unique aesthetic. Zhou’s artwork reflects her thoughts and contemplation on interconnected subjects, such as the religious practice and cultural traditions in the life of the nomad, identity of individuals within the culture of globalization, the intricate relationship between the land and its dwellers and the correlation of physical and imaginary spaces. Recently, she has been undertaking research in the unfixed social-cultural identity of migrants.

Zhou’s artworks has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including the group exhibitions: Changing Places (2017), Linden New Art, Melbourne; Ohrwurm (2016), Mainblau Projektraum, Berlin; Not Fair (2014), Melbourne; Testing Ground (2013 – 2014), a touring exhibition curated by Julie Gough; Here and There, Art from Northern Australia, Jogja Gallery, Yogyakarta, Indonesia / Nan Giese Gallery, Charles Darwin University (2010). Solo exhibitions: The Consequences of Success II (2016) at Kings ARI, Melbourne; The Consequences of Success I (2014), The Food Court ARI, Melbourne; The Comfort Promise (2014), Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, Darwin.

Zhou has participated in residencies in Barcelona and Berlin. She has received the John and Mary Kerley International Travel Scholarship 2016 and the National Gallery of Victoria Women’s Association Award at the graduation of Master of Contemporary Art at Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), The University of Melbourne in 2015. Zhou is currently a candidate of Master of Fine Art at VCA.

Earlier Event: February 1
For Want of a Nail
Later Event: April 1
Rogue Agents