The murmurings of a creative collaboration making its way to the city

The murmurings of a creative collaboration making its way to the city
Kaylah Joelle Baker

Melbourne’s very own Museum of Chinese Australian History is kicking off the year with an exhibit that speaks into the core of what the museum hopes to achieve when showcasing creative work.

Open from late January through to the end of March, following the decision to extend the date due to COVID restrictions, Family Murmurings is unlike anything else the museum has ever shown.

A collaborative art project combining Ken Chan’s written stories with artist Nancy Liang’s illustrations, the exhibit is brought to life with the help of Oliver Clifton’s virtual reality aspects.

It’s a cleverly dynamic project that the Museum of Chinese Australian History’s CEO Mark Wang could not pass up on having in the museum.

“Ken Chan’s activity is at the foundation of what we do [as a museum]. These stories are the most important aspect of the museum because they are stories about the identity and heritage of Chinese Australian people,” he said.

“Family Murmurings is a very individual experience and shows what the museum wishes to see more of in the coming years.”

Proud to be sharing such an “interactive” experience with visitors, Mr Wang believes the virtual reality aspect of the project will only aid in making the stories more “interesting and meaningful”.

While Family Murmurings delves into the area of fiction, and originated from his higher degree thesis, writer Mr Chan said the stories were predominately inspired by his childhood of growing up in Sydney as a Chinese Australian.

“I took remembered events as a starting point and then refashioned them into fiction. There’s a collection of nine stories altogether and they are each linked,” he said.

“With fiction you can explore and use creativity to develop dimensions in a story that don’t otherwise exist. You can open up the narrative and invent situations that get more to the core of what is going on.”

Centred around one family and their unspoken individual experiences, illustrator Ms Liang also lent on her own childhood as a Chinese Australian to extract and illustrate particular slices of the story that resonated with herself.

Encapsulating more experiences and generations than what Mr Chan ever anticipated when he chose to speak into the lived experiences of Chinese Australian people in the 1950s and ‘60s.

And while the preparations to get the exhibit organised have been difficult given the current circumstances, Mr Chan is “excited” for visitors to immerse themselves in scenarios they may or may not be familiar with.

“This is the first time I have had the experience of working collaboratively with very talented people like Nancy Liang and Oliver Clifton and we feel very fortunate to be working on such an exciting and viable project together,” he said.

“The exhibition will hopefully also give viewers another way of looking at and experiencing art.”

Located in a historic building on Cohen Place, Family Murmurings follows on from the Museum of Chinese Australian History’s One Million Stories Exhibition, which focused on bringing attention to its monumental 200-year celebration of Chinese people arriving in Australia •

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