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What's On

Australian Premiere
Presented by Arts House as part of Asia TOPA

Arts House
North Melbourne Town Hall
521 Queensberry St,
North Melbourne

Update 14 Feb 2020:

Arts House’s presentation of What is Chinese? is being rescheduled to a later date. Ticket holders will be contacted directly to arrange a refund.

For further information or enquiries, please contact Arts House on 03 9326 3720.

Thanks for your interest in this project and we apologise for any inconvenience caused. Stay tuned for future announcements by signing up to the Arts House eNews.


A country, a culture, a community or an identity? A question is a mirror: come see yourself in this one.

What is Chinese? is an international collaboration that ruminates on the connections and distinctions between people the world over. Almost a quarter of humanity can trace ethnic roots to Chinese culture, but how does that manifest in our everyday lives? Over the course of 10 days Arts House will be transformed into a living response to the question, with artists from both China and Australia living on-site and creating new work.

Shanghai artists Xiao Ke and Zi Han have travelled the world interviewing more than 140 members of the Chinese diaspora, and their video interviews and portraits are the launching point for this multi-faceted work. As What is Chinese? unfolds the two artists will also set up a ‘home’ in Arts House’s Warehouse, living with local artists. Audiences will be invited into this shared environment to visit, eat, and talk. At the end of the 10 days, the local artists will present new work that reflects on this playful zone of cross-cultural contact.

Part documentary, part performance, part installation, this curious series of encounters and insights speaks to how we live today and imagines what awaits us tomorrow.

Concept and Direction: Xiao Ke, Zi Han
Dramaturg: Ophelia Jiadai Huang
Producers: Erin Milne,
Stéphane Noël
Local collaborators: Wandi Cao, Jackson Castiglione, Marco Cher-Gibard, Shian Law, Jamie Marie Lewis, Yuchen Wang

Supported by – What is Chinese? is co-commissioned by Arts House through the City of Melbourne and AsiaTOPA through Arts Centre Melbourne, with support from the Sidney Myer Fund. Produced by Bureau of Works. Supported by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Besen Family Foundation.

What is Chinese? stems from the Chiname core research led by Xiao Ke and Zi Han from 2018 to 2020. This ongoing project has been supported by Taipei Performing Arts Centre (Taipei, TW). It benefitted from artistic residencies from Taifun Project (Düsseldorf, DE), Roepaen Podium, in cooperation with Theater im Fluss (Kleve, DE), George Town Festival (George Town, MY), ADAM • Asia Discovers Asia Meeting (Taipei, TW), Pickle Factory Festival (Kolkata, IN), Low Fat Art Fes (Bangkok, TH), Culture City of East Asia Toshima 2019 (Toshima, JP), Laiks Dejot Festival (Rīga, LV), Dance Nucleus & da:nslab (Singapore, SG), Taipei Arts Festival (Taipei, TW), BOK Festival (Macau, CN), Hellerau (Dresden, DE), Theater im Pumpenhaus (Münster, DE), Tuggeranong Arts Centre (Canberra, AU) Made with the funding support of European Union (Interreg V-A Program – Germany-The Netherlands), and Ministry of Culture and Science of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Image by – Xiao Ke x Zi Han