As an immigrant, I have lived in two different postcolonial states: the Chinese communist nation in the ‘80s and ‘90s and the Australian Commonwealth nation from early 2000’s to now. If the former’s socialism is considered as a result of decolonisation, the latter’s membership of the Commonwealth suggests the remaining link to the root of colonialism.

As a new Australia citizen, I search for my new socio-political position through establishing a relationship to the colonial history of Australia.

Image credit: Disturbances of the Stillness (video still), 2014, HD video.

Disturbances of the Stillness (2014) is a video of a still life. Portraying Australian native flowers and plants as the protagonist, the video shows a still life set that is interrupted by an inconsistently passing breeze. Capturing the subtle movements of the objects in the breeze, the video presents a resurrection of a still and inanimate scene impelled by a natural force.

The still life image shown in the video projects a strong imitation of the aesthetic style known in the European still life paintings produced during the period of European colonisation. The look, in particular, recalls the 17th century Dutch still life paintings. In the video, the still life objects are presented in a triangle composition using single source lighting. All the items, including dried Banksia flowers, a clear glass vase, a bundle of yellow wattles and gum leaves, a round ceramic plate with two pumpkins on it and a white silky cloth, sitting in a dark space, confirm the European rule about representation. For instance, the flowers are formed as a bouquet; they are placed in a rococo style vase; the white cloth gives the sense of the depth of the space and a highlighted area of the image.

The simulation presented in the video designates a gesture of mimesis. It is a digital representation of still life. Creating a still life image in a high definition format, the new digital technology is used as a contemporary means of representing an old artistic creation. If painting and digital images are two different representational means for the idea of art and beauty; under the digital surface, the image in the video resonates with the same idea of aesthetics and principles of art making. On one side, the digital copy, as a critical reference, diminishes the value of the original; on the other, it confirms the principle of value making that the original follows.

The digital imitation builds a pathway to another colonial simulation that is embedded in the content of still life. The Australian native plant and flower are used to achieve the idea of the beauty held and developed from another culture or colonialist culture. The history and social attachment of the Australian native plant and flower are dismissed through its look of sublime appearance. The still life depicted in the video is a silent aftermath of colonialisation. The injustice and cultural oppression are quietly reflected in the stillness of the still life.

The breeze shown in the video does not turn a still image into a moving image, but breaks the seemingly tranquil moment and implicates the underlying wrong. Using the subtle and insignificant movements as rhetoric, the video implies that there could be a deep traumatic historical reason behind the insignificant moments of a benign and mundane life.

Adam Curtis, the director of the documentary titled Hypernormalisation (2016), describes a social paradoxical situation where people pretend a wrong system is normal and is continuously lived in. The still image shown in the video perhaps is a visual presentation of the hypernormalised scene. [1]

[1] “With documentary film-maker Adam Curtis” London BBC Radio 6 music. 38:00, posted by BBC, Sun 16 Oct 2016,



A digital invitation to the opening of an exhibition at Blindside titled Chinese Whispers and other stories, 21 June – 8 July 2017. Opening night Thursday 22 June, 6pm-8pm. Siying has a video work Our first Lamination made in Australia in this exhibition. She will participate in the artist talk and public discussion scheduled on Saturday July 8, 2pm.

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 globalisation, 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.


Author: Photodust

PHOTODUST is an independent art and photography organisation based in Melbourne, Australia. We are a not-for-profit Asia-Pacific curation project. Our aim is to engage and encourage collaboration between artists, for the production and publication of photographic and lens-based art. PHOTODUST aims to establish a unique perspective toward visual culture. For this purpose, we are constantly searching for artworks that involve the use of photography and related processes. The rules are simple: all photographic and lens-based works will be considered. Our only requirement is that the work should be produced by artists born or based in the Asia-Pacific region. (copyright details available here: