Conversation Starters | Truth and censorship behind the great firewall of China


Inspired by the work of artist Sun Xun

Conversation Starters

Chinatopix/ Associated Press

Asia Society Australia, in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, are bringing together a panel of experts to discuss the tension between truth and censorship in China. The panel will be moderated by Professor Paul Gladston, the Inaugural Judith Neilson Chair of Contemporary Art at UNSW, and includes Analyst with the International Cyber Policy Centre of Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Fergus Ryan; artist, Guo Jian; and Director of Vermilion Art, Dr Yeqin Zuo.

Inspired by the work of artist Sun Xun, the panellists will examine China’s media and arts landscapes, focusing on citizen journalism, online activism and political and artistic expression. The program is a part of MCA's Conversation Starters: Truth or Darea festival of art, questions and discussion.

Date: Sunday 09 September
Time: 3:00pm – 4:30pm 
Venue: Museum of Contemporary Art, 140 George St, The Rocks NSW 2000

This is a public event. Registration is essential. For more information please contact

About our Moderator:

Professor Paul Gladston is the Inaugural Judith Neilson Chair of Contemporary Art at UNSW where he will lead scholarly research into contemporary art, with a particular focus on China. He has held previous positions at the University of Nottingham and its overseas campus in Ningbo, China as the Head of the School of International Communications and Director of the Institute of Comparative Cultural Studies.

Paul has written extensively about contemporary art and art theory, including Contemporary Art in Shanghai: Conversations with Seven Chinese Artists (2011), Contemporary Chinese Art: a Critical History (2014) and Deconstructing Contemporary Chinese Art (2016). Contemporary Chinese Art: a Critical History was awarded ‘Best Publication’ at the Art Awards China in 2015. His forthcoming book is titled Contemporary Chinese Art and Aesthetic Modernity: Towards a Critical Contemporaneity.

About our Panellists:

Fergus Ryan is an Analyst working with International Cyber Policy Centre, Australian Strategic Policy Institute. He has worked in media, communications and marketing roles in China and Australia for close to a decade and has published widely on Chinese tech, entertainment, and media industries.

Most recently, Fergus was a journalist for News Corp. publications China Spectator and The Australian. He has also been published in The Guardian and Foreign Policy. Prior to that, Fergus worked on business development for the Chinese actress Li Bingbing.

Fergus holds a Master's of International Studies from the University of Technology Sydney.


Guo Jian was born in Guizhou province, China, a place of beautiful mountains and rivers, and home to many different ethnic groups, where cultures met and mixed.

He grew up during the Cultural Revolution, and witnessed the movement shadow his tiny town in these beautiful hills with evil and cruelty.

When war broke out on China’s border with Vietnam in 1979, he joined the PLA as a propaganda artist. His experience in the army, his later work as a propaganda worker in his hometown work unit, and his participation as an art student in Beijing’s Minorities Institute in the student protests on Tiananmen Square in 1989 and subsequent massacre – in which he nearly lost his life – have influenced his art ever since. Political propaganda culture and the culture of violence and the behavior of people within these circumstances have for many years been the themes of his creative work.

Since immigrating to Australia, his work on these themes has attracted the attention and recognition of the Australian art world. He continued to work in this direction after moving back to Beijing in 2005. In 2014, in the lead up to the 25th anniversary of the 4 June massacre, he created a diorama representation of Tiananmen Square on which he piled 160 kilos of minced pork. Following an interview with the English Financial Times he was taken into custody by Chinese authorities and held for two weeks before being deported back to Australia.

Guo Jian is currently working on a series of work that reflects on the spiritual and civilizational “rubbish culture” of a China in ongoing social transformation and the way that ethnic minority cultures are used to foreground majority Han culture.


Dr Yeqin Zuo (BMed.,MPH.,FAPHM) is a public health medicine specialist with a long term passion for Chinese art and culture. She has worked in a range of senior positions in cancer control, immunisation and quality use of medicines in government and non-government organisations. In 2014, she decided to diversify and invest some of her effort and time into developing a Chinese contemporary art gallery in Sydney. Vermilion Art was established in October 2015 and since then it has held 22 exhibitions to show works by 56 established and emerging artists mostly from China.  

Vermilion Art’s exhibitions have attracted audiences from both mainstream Australian communities as well as Chinese communities in Sydney. Their works have been reported by ABC, SMH, AFR, SBS and many Chinese media outlets. Art critic John McDonald wrote: “Yeqin Zuo has been operating Australia’s first commercial gallery devoted exclusively to Chinese contemporary art. Vermilion Art is not to be found in Paddington or Waterloo, but in Hickson Road, near the Sydney Theatre Company. It’s an innovative location for the most innovative artists in the world.

Our Arts, Culture and Diversity Programs span across visual art and performance, literature, media, technology, education, and community sectors. These unique partner events examine cultural traditions and expressions, celebrate diversity and multiculturalism, and explore a changing Australian society. Run as both public and member only events, this programming stream offers an exciting way to engage with the work of Asia Society Australia.

This event is presented in partnership with Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

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Event Details

Sun 09 Sep 2018
3 - 4:30 p.m.

Museum of Contemporary Art, 140 George St, The Rocks NSW 2000

Register Now
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