Map of Technological Ethics, 2018
Site-specific mural
APT9, QAGOMA Brisbane
Courtesy/ © the artist and Chloe Callistemon


Also from China but from a younger generation, Cao Fei was born in 1978, well after the Cultural Revolution. A thread that joins her work to Qiu’s is the concept of utopia, although its expression and subject is in marked contrast. While Qiu’s work depicts current ethical dilemmas using traditional ink painting, Cao’s work imagines the near future, using current technologies to offer a familiar portal. Her AsiaOne series of photographs and video conjures the future of an existing logistics hub known as, possibly China’s most advanced manufacturing and distribution centre. The narrative sees modified people from 2021 interpreting the abandoned site for the camera, sliding down goods chutes and sitting on conveyor belts. In other industrial spaces, dancers perform 1960s routines to 1990s pop hits. Keehan suggests: “This collapse of historical eras reflects Cao Fei’s long-term interest in China’s rapid social and economic transformations. She also argues that logistics – the link that binds contemporary industries in a global marketplace – might also connect the present and the future.”

Cao Fei is represented by Vitamin Creative Space.

Asia One (stills), 2018
HD video installation
Purchased with funds from Tim Fairfax AC
through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation
Courtesy the artist and Vitamin Creative Space


Jananne Al-Ani’s moving-image work Black Powder Peninsula (2016) dominates a space within the Queensland Art Gallery. Its title refers to the gunpowder exported by China and the soundscape that draws you in front of the video is hard to identify, but takes you to aircraft noise, cockpit chatter, sonic booms and building demolition. Aerial views from a sewerage plant, electricity-conducting grids and areas of ground with straight-cut troughs segue from one to another. Its ambience is ominous, its aesthetic a landscape that is abstracted, spliced and formal, and engineered. Born in Iraq, Al-Ani moved, with her mother and sisters, to the UK when she was a teenager. Her father was unable to leave with them, and the transition from a comfortable life in a compound in Iraq to a council flat in the UK was alienating, particularly as images of the Gulf War were commonly broadcast, bombs dropping on areas that she knew. Part of what Al-Ani conveys cogently in this work is distilled from aerial footage from World War I, choreographed with images of structures that are common all over the globe. Curatorial Manager Geraldine Barlow says, “While we may view other countries as separate and far away, the links between us are more and more apparent.” Al-Ani’s disembodied landscape has no visible people: one tiny car moves through the landscape; another frame includes a single bird. Yet there is nothing lifeless about its aesthetic

Black Powder Peninsula (stills), 2016
Courtesy © the artist and Black Powder Peninsula


Joyce Ho is from Taiwan, but her scenarios unsettle the familiar places and spaces that we inhabit, investing them with a new way of seeing. Reuben Keehan suggests: “Ho’s works hum with unexpected connections, perspectives and possibilities.” Two waiting room installations, part of her YourThreeMinutes series, mirror each other in APT9.Ho explains: “A lot of my concerns about my everyday life is service, or the gesture of service in my country. In the waiting room, I want to know: how do we see this time of waiting? When we are doubled with someone, time becomes something else. There is something like poetry for me there. When we are waiting for the beginning of something or departure of something, time has no meaning.” Ho was born and raised in Taiwan but then moved to the US, and currently lives in Taipei. She regards herself as bicultural and bilingual. She tells VAULT, “A mixture of culture is something that, as an artist, I should recognise instead of going against it. Some people expect artists to have the symbols of your country in your artwork but, in our generation, we are so influenced by different cultures. I recognise that diversity in my practice, and abroad – there are many things I can relate to. Maybe as an artist I should not be stuck with finding what symbolises my country. I think we could embrace that we have many different cultures.”

Joyce Ho is represented by TKG

On the second day, Saturday, your three minutes…, 2017
Art Basel Hong Kong
Courtesy the artist and TKG+, Taipei


An artist whose work also embraces multiple cultures is James Tylor, whose interests cross borders, engage with the natural world, and reflect on custodianship of land. One of many First Nations artists in APT9, he is represented with a series of daguerreotype images that speak to the vulnerability of the natural environment but also his heritage, which includes Maori, Aboriginal, Anglo-Saxon and Norwegian. This seriesTe Moana Nui– the Polynesian term for the Pacific Ocean – draws on the movement of people across vast waters together with the mingling of cultural beliefs and values. Dark and evocative images focus on Maori and Pacific culture and bounty of the land, together with the price of colonisation, using hands holding, variously: a cross, a tattooed arm elevating a fish hook, manacles, and a tiki (holding the ancestors). Tylor will also create a wall painting with a live sweet potato vine, which notes its symbolic importance as part of cultural interchange. This food plant may be 8,000 years old, and travelled from the Andes throughout the Pacific, from island to island. Similarly, during the exhibition the vine will grow through the work, spreading its influence – rather like the APT itself.

James Tylor is represented by Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne

The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art is at Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art from November 24, 2018 to April 28, 2019