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bye resilience

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I take the duvet from my bed and place it on the floor, lying on the ground. I look at the tree visible through my window, its green colours shimmering in the breeze.

During isolation I’ve watched this tree become almost barren, although it still twinkles, its dying yellow leaves falling one by one to the ground.


I read the recent words of Naomi Riddle, the founding editor of Running Dog.

Is it any wonder that when some of us hear the phrase ‘art sector’ combined with ‘unprecedented times’, we find ourselves without the capacity or the belief or the will or the desire to invest whole-heartedly in ‘saving’ it? ‘I don’t want a seat at the table’, writes the poet Momtaza Mehri, ‘I want a deck-chair from which to watch the table’s long-overdue burning.’

The language of resilience and adaptability has existed for a long time in the arts, but this terminology and such decisions by organisations—like Melbourne’s new multi-million festival calling itself RISING—are big turn offs. I think about the resilience of whiteness, the resilience of leaders ignoring criticism, the resilience of shame and ignorance, the resilience that I’ve built my career on but now want to leave behind.


The tram is quiet, my body vibrating with unease. Eventually I stand outside the Victorian College of the Arts. I’m here to do an interview, I was asked at the last minute by a white arts editor I was interning with. I had no time to prepare and I was meeting with a First Nations dance company. I had never seen their work.

The editor had given me their iPad, something I couldn’t afford and didn’t know how to use. When I step into the rehearsal room filled with dancers, I spot what looks like a professional news crew. Before anyone notices me, I move silently away like a ghost.

I’m unsure how to describe the shame I felt. I remember the hollowness being filled slowly with a heat. Angry at the editor for asking me to do this, angry that I didn’t say no, angry at myself that I had never seen First Nations work.

Years later, I’m asked by Vidya Rajan for an interview with Liminal, an online space for Asian-Australian experiences, about how I developed an interest in the arts. My uncomfortable truth is that my introduction to art, what shaped my palate for it, was defined by whiteness.

I could have answered, The Fall: All Rhodes Lead to Decolonisation, a production created by students from the University of Capetown...or mentioning artists like Joel Bray, Bella Waru Candy Bowers, Jean Tong, Margot Tanjutco.

But speaking chronologically, in my teen years I was a proud introvert and a Harry Potter kid, and the first theatre production I loved was an adaptation of Antigone directed by Matthew Lutton. So it began like this, starting out in my career I was mainly seeing work by white artists. This was easy to do, for whiteness informs how most of our cultural institutions have been made.

Years pass. I arrive back to Perth from London where I’m greeted by my stepdad. He asks if I want to see her in the hospital now or wait until later. When I see Mum, almost without hair and grey-skinned, lying in bed attached to an IV drip, she tries to hide her surprise. I thought you wouldn’t want to see me like this.

Afterwards, we all return home and in the letterbox I find mail campaigns against the same-sex marriage postal survey. Silence sits, and sits, and sits.

As a month or two passes a lover finally says to me that I should see a doctor about my mental health. Before Mum getting cancer I had spent the past year and a half living overseas; an exercise in fast tracking my career, and upon returning found myself completely turning away from the ‘art sector’.

At the psychologist’s office, a white woman surrounded by Buddha statuettes and pink walls diagnoses me with generalised anxiety disorder. I throw myself into work and move to Melbourne without taking the time to recover.


‘I’m still not sure if someone who hasn’t been Othered for most of their life could fully comprehend ‘representation’, writes Leah Jing for Meanjin. ‘It is a bodily recognition, a visceral knowing. It is as though—for your whole life you have been covered in a thick cotton wool—and yes you could still feel the impact of Good Art—but each time you collided with it, the impact was understandably softened—nothing to write home about.’


I have a masochistic relationship with my career, born out of resilience. The tricky thing about being resilient, is that the cost of it eats away at you. I began to concentrate less, enter a dazed state, carrying a tightness in my throat. I began to use my exhaustion as an excuse to no longer engage, to check out of activism, to remain silent.

I became a producer out of necessity, tired of not having autonomy within organisations and seeing whiteness continue to operate within boards, programming, funding decisions and cultural criticism. My personal wellbeing and the ‘success’ of my career have been linked for so long.

I became a producer for a simple reason, I wanted to feel connected to art again. I was tired of feeling alone.

I’m not interested in conversations that are only about diverse representation, rather I want to help enact redistribution, dismantlement and complete transformation. Rather than write about my frustrations, like I’ve poorly attempted to do here, I’ll be busy trying to take action. I hope you will do the same.