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A digital contemporary art project


Responding to our collective moment in time, Returning offers succinct mediations on the events, experiences and propositions prompted by the pandemic. Set over multiple chapters, Returning: Chapter 1 commissions Australian and Japanese perspectives. Returning: Chapter 2, which focuses on Australian and Taiwanese artists, will be released later in 2021.

Chapter 1 Artists: Yu Araki (Japan), Caroline Garcia (Australia), Cherine Fahd (Australia), Koki Tanaka (Japan).


As we navigate our re-entry into the public realm, we have emerged into a world increasingly drained of wonder and physical connection. After living our separate, secluded lives, we are not the same people we were a year ago. Though restrictions have relaxed and populations are gaining immunity, our present is still uncertain. Globalisation has seemingly been put on hold, the legacy of Colonialism has been brought to the fore, while radicalisation is more present and the effects of climate change more real. 

Against this backdrop, Sydney Opera House has commissioned several artist perspectives from Australia and Asia to accrue, gather and snowball the mood swings of the past year, transforming our private and societal reorientations into works that ring fresh and clear. While much of the imagery is drawn from the past twelve months, these works are more than mere artefacts of the pandemic. The artists have created enduring works that beat with a rhetorical urgency. Conceived as online moving image works, video is used as a tool to navigate forward. They have taken to individual forms of political activism and social commentary, creating works that impel us to view the recent past differently, while asking what the future might portend. 

Through poetic metaphors and expressive soundtracks, graveness and humour, focused videography and experimental moving image, the artists demonstrate that art is not only a dream or a vision, but can contain a skeleton architecture for our lives. By leaning, listening, watching and adjusting ourselves to the new rhythms of the unknown, these screen-based works offer us glimmers of how to find our way again and make sense of our changing surroundings as we return - return to the world, return to each other and most importantly, return to ourselves. 

Accompanying each artwork are behind the scenes video interviews as well as past works by the artists. A series of personal essays by a selection of writers unravelling each artists’ response will be released later this year. 

Returning: Chapter 1 is co-presented with The Japan Foundation, Sydney

Chapter 1

Yu Araki (Japan) 

Yu Araki, Bivalvia: Act II (L) (2021), HD video, colour, sound, 21:04. Commissioned by The Sydney Opera House for Returning with support from the Arts Commission Yokohama (ACY) and The Japan Foundation, Sydney and The Japan Foundation, Japan.

Continuing Araki’s interest in bivalves, the scientific name for the marine mollusc, Bivalvia: Act II (L) is an experimental film that features an intricate, singing lace oyster puppet as its centrepiece. Throughout a patchwork of intimate and comforting scenes, the oyster performs Italian composer Jacopo Peri’s opera L’ Euridice which animates the Greek myth of Orpheus, a great musician, who journeys into the underworld to revive his wife Eurydice who has been fatally injured.

Bivalvia: Act II consists of two companion pieces, Bivalvia: Act II (L) and Bivalvia: Act II (R), the latter which can be viewed on The Japan Foundation’s exhibition, 11 Stories on Distanced Relationships: Contemporary Art from Japan.

Caroline Garcia (Australia)

Caroline Garcia, Force of a .22 Calibre Bullet (2021), digital video, colour, sound, 7:55. Commissioned by The Sydney Opera House for Returning with support from The Japan Foundation, Sydney. 

Filmed on a body camera, typically used by the police force, Caroline Garcia’s Force of a .22 Calibre Bullet is an experimental mediation of grief, violence and resistance. Taking inspiration from the mantis shrimp, which smashes its victim’s shells with the force of a fired bullet, Garcia performs a series of boxing exercises, appearing as if she is manipulating footage of the mantis shrimp composited into the frame. Framing the violence of her actions is a mediation soundtrack of Indigenous Filipino instruments by Canadian fillipino group Notu. Against this juxtaposition of Garcia’s violent exercises, the calming meditation and the allusion to surveillance through her video, Garcia creates a timely statement about the relationship between power, violence and regeneration.

Cherine Fahd (Australia)

Cherine Fahd, Play Proximus (2021), HD video, 10:37. Courtesy the artist. Commissioned by the Sydney Opera House for Art Assembly, with support from our Corporate Partners and Donors as part of New Work Now, project donors and the ARROW Collective.

An articulation of touch and intimacy, artist Cherine Fahd’s, Play Proximus documents the 50 public performances of Fahd’s participatory artwork, A Proxy for One Thousand Eyes performed as part of ANTIDOTE at Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room. Transforming these performances into 12 minutes of tender imagery, Play Proximus is a document of connection, embrace and yearning -- continuing the artist’s interest in portraiture, documentation and performance.

Koki Tanaka (Japan)

Koki Tanaka, Reflective Notes (Reconfiguration) (2021), HD video, colour and sound, 06:32. Commissioned by The Sydney Opera House for Returning with support from The Japan Foundation, Sydney.  

Koki Tanaka’s video essay, Reflective Notes (Reconfiguration) explores the impact from COVID-19 and self-isolation. Drawn from his recent book, Reflective Notes (Recent Writings) published in 2020, Tanaka animates his text through archival footage drawn from his film catalogue. Central to his exposition is the metaphor of “concrete” and “abstract” which he uses to explore the clear and the abstract, the tangible and intangible, the qualitative and quantitative impacts of the pandemic. Questions are posed, answers are suggested, but ultimately, Tanaka reminds audiences that real change lies within individuals and communities. Reflective Notes (Reconfiguration) features Sydney based artist Rainbow Chan as co-narrator.

About the artists

Japanese man wearing glasses standing side-on looking at camera in front of a black curtain

Yu Araki Japan

Araki received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis, U.S.A. in 2007, and completed his Master of Film and New Media Studies from Tokyo University of the Arts in 2010. In 2013, he was selected to participate in Tacita Dean Workshop hosted by Fundación Botín in Santander, Spain. During 2017-8, he was a guest resident at Asia Culture Center in Gwangju, South Korea, and Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 

His recent exhibitions include Pola Museum of Art, Hakone; Shiseido Gallery, Tokyo; Art Sonje Center, Seoul; the National Museum of Art, Osaka, MUJIN-TO Production, Tokyo; Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona; and Okayama Art Summit, Okayama. His films have been programmed in international festivals such as Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin, Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival, Videoex, and International Film Festival Rotterdam, where he won the Ammodo Tiger Short Film Award in 2018. In 2019, he was selected as one of the 21 finalists for the Future Generation Art Prize hosted by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation in Kyiv, Ukraine. He’s the 2020 U39 Artist Fellowship Grant recipient from Arts Commission Yokohama. 

Woman sitting side-on surrounded by random objects in front of a white background

Caroline Garcia Australia

Caroline is a culturally promiscuous, interdisciplinary artist. She works across performance, video, and installation through a hybridized aesthetic of cross-cultural movement, embodied research, and new media. Caroline is a commissioned OPEN CALL 2021 artist at The Shed NYC and an upcoming Tech Resident at Pioneer Works in Spring 2021. Her most notable projects include Flygirl, developed at the EMPAC’s Residency Program in New York, facilitated by Australia Council for the Arts in 2016/17, and performances at the Manila Biennale, Art Central Hong Kong, and The Vera List Center for Arts and Politics, all in 2018. That same year, Caroline was one of the eight artists selected nation-wide for ‘Primavera: Young Australian Artists’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, and is the 2018/19 recipient of the AAA/AFNGA AUSART Fellowship Award. Caroline has presented work at Spring/Break Art Fair, Olsen Gruin Gallery, Movement Research at Judson Church, Smack Mellon, Creative Time Summit X, A.I.R. Biennale, and Hesse Flatow; all NYC. She was in residence at The Studios at MASS MoCA in 2019 and was awarded the Edwards Charitable Giving Trust Residency at ISCP, NY in 2020. Caroline is an MFA in Fine Arts graduate from Parsons The New School of Art, Media, and Technology.

Woman smiling and looking away from the camera sitting in front of a wooden background

Cherine Fahd Australia

Working across photography and video performance, Cherine Fahd explores the potential of photography as a social practice to build connections between people. Her recent exhibition projects include 'The National 2019: New Australian Art', Carriageworks (2019), 'On Vulnerability & Doubt', Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (2019) and 'Apókryphos', Centre for Contemporary Photography (2019). Fahd has had two books published of her work by M.33 Melbourne, 'A Portrait is a Puzzle' (2017) and 'Apókryphos' (2019) which won the Australia New Zealand Photobook Award. Her writing has been published on The Conversation, ABC News and SBS and academic journals. She is currently the Director of Photography at UTS and an artist in residence at The Clothing Store at Carriageworks, Sydney.

Japanese man wearing glasses looking away from camera standing in front of a fern forest

Koki Tanaka Japan

In his diverse art practice spanning video, photography, site-specific installations and interventions, Tanaka visualises and reveals the multiple contexts latent in the most simple of everyday acts. Tanka has exhibited extensively, showing projects at the Palais de Tokyo (Paris), the Migros Museum (Zurich), the Kunsthaus (Graz), the Kunsthaus (Zurich), the Hammer Museum(Los Angeles), VanAbbe Museum (Eindhoven), the ICA (London), the Mori Art Museum(Tokyo), Skulptur Projekte Münster 2017, 57th Venice Biennale 2017, the Liverpool Biennial 2016, the 55th Venice Biennale 2013, Yokohama Triennial 2011, the Gwangju Biennial 2008, the Taipei Biennial 2006 (Taipei). He received a special mention as national participation at the 55th Venice Biennale, 2013, and Deutsche bank artist of the year 2015 award.

Co-presented with