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Asia-Pacific art makes waves in Australia
This year's Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art exhibition includes everything from performance masks from Papua New Guinea to Indonesian punk music, as Pacific correspondent Sean Dorney reports.

The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art began 20 years ago and is now one of the biggest attractions for the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.

This year, for the seventh triennial, the offerings include everything from performance masks from Papua New Guinea to Indonesian punk music.

Pacific correspondent Sean Dorney went along to have a look.
(Footage of Papua New Guinean dancers performing plays)

SEAN DORNEY, REPORTER: The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art began these three yearly exhibitions of Asian and Pacific art back in 1993. For this seventh Triennial, two major works from Papua New Guinea were commissioned.

Staff from the gallery headed up the Sepik River to find the artists from villages with two distinct artistic styles: the Abelam and the Kwoma.

(Footage of Abelam house plays)

This is the front of an Abelam spirit house, their haus tambaran.

RUTH MCDOUGALL, CURATOR, QUEENSLAND GALLERY OF MODERN ART: They travelled to Brisbane for two months at the beginning of 2012 and they worked, we leased a workshop for them in South Brisbane. And they worked creating the carvings and the paintings for it there. So they knew the space they would have and they wanted to make something that was the size and had same impact as the houses that they make at home.

SEAN DORNEY: The carvers draw on their legends about powerful spirits, both good and evil. Some strike fear into everybody.

NELSON MAKAMOI, ARTIST: She's a lady but she's a frog, frog lady. And sometimes she used to change shape from frog to become woman. And she's a warrior and she used to fight against the tribes.

SEAN DORNEY: The second group of PNG artists made this.

(Image of hanging is shown)

RUTH MCDOUGALL: That's a translation of a Kwoma spirit house, or koromb. Those houses don't have the fantastic facade same as the Abelam, all the artistic focus is on the ceiling. So this particular project that's been flipped up on to the wall and the poles that that would stand on are still displayed where they would be to mark out the space of that house.

RUSSEL STORER, CURATOR, QUEENSLAND GALLERY OF MODERN ART: This exhibition is the largest one we've done to date. There's 75 artists and artist groups across both our gallery buildings and from 27 countries. So really stretching from Turkey all across to Tonga and that includes Australia as well.

SEAN DORNEY: From Indonesia came a group of artists who created a fictitious historical punk music band with connections to Queensland.

RUSSEL STORER: They also looked at the parallel sort of time in Indonesia and thinking about the music scene there, and certainly under the time of Suharto, the role of music and popular culture. So what they did was actually invent a story about a band.

UNIDENTIFIED RUANGRUPA ARTIST(subtitled): We're interested in the 70s situation in Indonesia because during that era, that was the era when Suharto regime ruled through the country, and at that time we know there was much cultural activity, art activity that was being censored.

SEAN DORNEY: They even wrote songs for the fictitious band, songs in Bahasa which you can listen to on the display's earphone pods.

Schools throughout Brisbane and south-east Queensland have organised tours and the total numbers to visit could be heading for a record.

RUTH MCDOUGALL: We are respecting over 500,000 for this one. We're tracking well.

SEAN DORNEY: What are you planning for the next one?

RUTH MCDOUGALL: The next one? That's a secret.

SEAN DORNEY: The challenge could be keeping up with change in Asia and the Pacific over the next three years.
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