Re-Orient: Reclaiming Spaces, Redefining Stories

Included with museum entry

Acclaimed Chinese-Italian Australian photographer Pia Johnson re-orients herself in this beautiful series of self-portraits that encourages trans-cultural artists to seek out the places that once, by design, made their ancestors 'not feel welcome'.

The exhibition features Pia ‘re-orienting’ herself through the grand physical spaces of the museum, its collection, and the architecture that once spoke strongly to new immigrants about who could, and could not, belong.

Pia Johnson stands in traditional Chinese dress and attempts to climb the colossal pillar of what was once the 19th century Customs House and is now the Immigration Museum.
'We are so small in these towering buildings, and there is a reason why, and a rationale behind why those architects have done that. So that's really important to convey, but also to try and work out how we can change that.' - Pia

Pia uses the 19th century Customs House – where new arrivals had their baggage and papers checked and where the infamous Dictation Test was administered – as a site-specific location to explore how we understand our collective transnational communities and histories.  She examines the rich and emotional territory of identity, and questions how site and place can shift our sense of belonging across time.

Pia Johnson

Pia Johnson is a photographer, visual artist, curator and lecturer, who has exhibited across Australia and internationally, and is collected in private and public collections including the National Gallery of Victoria. Her work has been a finalist in many photography awards including the National Photographic Portrait Prize, Olive Cotton Award, Bowness Photography Prize, Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize, Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award among others.

Pia holds a Bachelor of Creative Arts from University of Melbourne and has a Doctorate in Fine Arts from RMIT University.

Re-Orient: Reclaiming Spaces, Redefining Stories is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.


  • April 2024

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