When Jennifer Yang commenced the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Advanced Studies degree, her subject selections oriented around what she found most intriguing to study: Art History, Political Science and International Relations. Indonesian language and cultures became keen interests, leading Jennifer to the Diploma of Language Studies which offers a flexible pathway to expand her fields of study.
Beginning with introductory-level Indonesian Studies in 2019, Jennifer embarked on an immersive in-country study to Indonesia and was appointed as a New Colombo Plan ambassador. Within a year, she acquired advanced-level proficiency in Indonesian. Jennifer also took electives in Japanese Studies and Chinese Studies – adding to her language repertoire.
Language studies became a tool to deepen my learning. It intersected with so many areas of interest and added a new perspective to my majors – and that was truly valuable.
Jennifer graduated in 2022 with First Class Honours and was awarded the University Medal for her outstanding academic performance over the course of her studies.
“While the connections among different disciplines may not be initially obvious, I was continually inspired by the manifold interrelations among art, politics, national histories, languages and the making of cultures,” she said.
Jennifer’s language studies opened doors to new spaces for learning and professional development, including a curatorial internship with Jakarta’s leading contemporary art institution Museum MACAN. Shortly after completing her degree, Jennifer launched her first curatorial work at the 16albermarle Project Space in Sydney.
The exhibition Our Grandfather Road explored the gendered dimensions of body and place in contemporary Southeast Asian art. It featured a private collection of works by 17 artists from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Singapore, and provided a window for audiences in Australia to engage with creative expressions by underrepresented artists and perspectives from its regional neighbour.
Jennifer led a curatorial talk and exhibition walkthrough, and moderated a panel discussion exploring new directions in feminist research and curatorial practice with leading academics and curators from across Australia.
The nine-week exhibition ran alongside a host of successful public programs, and was well-received by the local community, artists, art educators and students.
“Learning Bahasa Indonesia opened a pathway that led me beyond the European and North American centres of knowledge in art historical knowledge – equipping me with a more critical approach to ‘doing’ art history,” said Jennifer.
“It was the combination of my art historical knowledge and familiarity with Indonesian language, culture and history which qualified me as a unique and valuable candidate for the opportunities I've had,” said Jennifer. “They have shifted the way I approach my career, as they opened my eyes to exciting new possibilities which lie at the intersections of my interests.”
With a passion for Southeast Asian art histories, Jennifer hopes to deepen her connection to the Indo-Pacific region as she continues her curatorial work and contribution to research and education in art history.
Languages and cultures in action
This article is part of a new series exploring how language and cross-cultural skills are applied in real-world contexts, as we meet people from the School of Languages and Cultures who share their journeys with us.
Banner image: Arts graduate Jennifer Yang leading her curatorial walkthrough with University of Sydney students at 16albermarle gallery. Supplied by Jennifer Yang.