Remastered – TarraWarra Biennial 2023 ua usiusi faʻavaʻasavili: TarraWarra Museum of Art, VIC

Phuong Ngo

1 Apr - 16 Jul 2023

Phuong NgoRemastered

Set out in the Victorian Factories and Shops Act 1896, the ‘European Labour Only’ stamp was a legal requirement for furniture produced in Victoria. Similar laws were enacted across Australia during this period and were perfectly complimented by the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act (White Australia Policy) upon federation.

A racially superior piece of furniture made by the best hands; the whitest hands; by ‘European Labour Only’ was contrasted by the ‘inferior’ furniture made by those forced to stamp their wears with ‘Asiatic Labour’ or ‘Chinese Labour’. Much like the role of the current Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, designed to support and protect the buyer, these laws came into effect to protect the every day (white) consumer rights, and were abolished in 1963 – only a decade before the dismantling of the white Australia policy.

Remastered is a project that metaphorically and literally dismantles the before-mentioned history to examine the racialised underpinnings of White Australia. It does this by sourcing and dismantling ‘European Labour Only’ furniture and reconstituting it into fictional art objects centring the artist’s own labour in addressing historical exclusion and othering. In this first iteration of the project, the work responds to the context of TarraWarra Museum and museums more generally, through a series of varied plinths painted in the colour ‘white comfort’. By creating these works, Ngo aims to speak to the structural and hidden forms of racism that exist in these institutions.


The 8th TarraWarra Biennial, 1 April–16 July 2023, will feature newly commissioned works by 15 artists/artist groups focused on the interconnectedness of the peoples of Australia, Asia and the Great Ocean.
Curated by Dr Léuli Eshrāghi, the exhibition is titled ua usiusi faʻavaʻasavili, a Samoan proverb which means ‘the canoe obeys the wind’. The proverb is demonstrative of Great Ocean celestial navigation practices, following centuries of European and Asian colonial occupations.
TarraWarra Biennial 2023: ua usiusi faʻavaʻasavili, focuses attention on contemporary artists tied by ancestry or by materiality to the many lands and waters constituting Australia and its immediate neighbourhood of the soil and watery expanses termed Asia and the Great Ocean.
Revived by Satawalese Master Navigator Mau Piailug among Kānaka ʻŌiwi communities in 1970s Hawaiʻi, celestial navigation practices teach the interconnectedness of humans and islands, reefs, stars, suns, moons, currents, winds and all other beings. Bringing this lens to an exhibition context, TarraWarra Biennial 2023 imparts to audiences the wish that humility towards living beings and storied places might generate more neighbourly exchanges and resolutely joyful futures.

The artists participating in TarraWarra Biennial 2023 are:

Regina Pilawuk Wilson (Ngan’gikurunggurr, Marrithyel); Vicki West (Trawlwoolway); Sonja Carmichael (Quandamooka) and Elisa Jane Carmichael (Quandamooka); The Unbound Collective: Ali Gumillya Baker (Mirning), Faye Rosas Blanch (Mbararam, Yidinyji), Natalie Harkin (Narungga), Simone Ulalka Tur (Yankunytjatjara); Jenna Lee (Gulumerridjin, Wardaman, KarraJarri); Abdul-Rahman Abdullah; Hoda Afshar; Elyas Alavi; Torika Bolatagici (iTaukei Viti); Dr Kirsten Lyttle (Tainui Waikato); Phuong Ngo; Bhenji Ra; David Sequeira; Sancintya Mohini Simpson; and Dr Leyla Stevens.