Beyond the initial lockdowns and border closures of 2020, the pandemic continued to have a profound impact on artists, practice and the development of new work across the world.

While the first of the Asia TOPA Virtual LABs considered online platforms as a means of continuing to connect and collaborate during a time when international travel was not possible, by 2021 artists had embraced digital tools as an integral means of developing and presenting contemporary performance in a post-pandemic world. Live and digital drew ever closer in the conception and creation with dual outcomes a very enticing possibility.

The individual projects developed through the Asia TOPA Virtual LABs in 2021-2022 are at varying stages of development and each are unique in their approach to cultural exchange and collaboration. The creative outcomes and insights into process that the artists have generously shared with us contribute to a collective narrative about an evolution of practice and digital transformation that has taken place since 2020.

The ongoing impact of the pandemic means that, once again two years on, these creative outcomes and documents of a process-in-process are shared with the uncertainty of knowing when cross-border travel and the conditions for live performance in numerous different territories might be possible.

Some virtual partnerships have received additional support extending their LAB time even further. These will feature in an exhibition of Asia TOPA’s new work partnerships in the COVID era in a unique partnership with the National Museum of Australia towards the end of 2022. As expressions of the artists’ shared inventiveness in isolation they are increasingly confident as parallel digital offerings in their own right.

The means is always apparent in the outcome and the experience of virtual connection in building a new live repertoire cannot be undone.

Our thanks go to the artists – as ever – and our funding and producing partners for enabling us to keep investing in intimate acts of exchange and creation across the vast distances of the Asia-Pacific.

Featured LABs:

Yoko and Yohei stand speaking to each other. Yohei wears a striped red and brown cardigan and a matching beanie, and Yoko has a cream sweater on. Behind them is a black and white projection of a french woman with curly blonde hair.

The Interpreters, parts 1 and 2

In the middle of a brick studio, a man kneels on the floor. He has six lengths of dark green fabric wrapped around him that connects to the ceiling.

Bedhaya Roro

On the left of the image, motion performer Harrison Hall leans over to look at something in the distance. He's wearing motion technology that allows the virtual DOKU to mimick the action over on the right. DOKU is wearing a technological body suit and towers over skyscrapers.

DOKU: Live Alone Die Alone – The Karma Circle

Betty Error sits on the ground wearing a black crop top, shorts and sneakers. She's holding a selfie stick and performing for the camera. There's a green screen behind her.

Betty Error Trip

Three Yolngu elders and two children gather on the beach. They're wearing traditional tribal attire in rich, warm colours and white tribal paint.

The Voyage of Bayini

Kok Heng Leun and Tamara Saulwick in conversation over zoom. On the left Kok Heng Leun sits in his home office wearing a black tshirt and glasses. He has a wide smile on his face. On the right Tamara Saulwick sits in her living room wearing a grey shirt and white watch. She's gesturing to the camera with a smile on her face.


Zebastian Hunter sits being interviewed. He has short blonde hair and a neat beard and is wearing a brown button up shirt.

The Nanjing Project

A portrait of Nina and her family

Nina and the Wolf

A woman in a vintage, pink gown kneels on the ground and mimes typing on a keyboard. Behind her is a screen with a large blue face and scrolling text.

What type nymph was she?

Two images side by side, with black empty space below them. On the left is an image of the full moon against the dark navy sky. On the right is a close up of a brown eye with golden flecks throughout.

Conversation between Eugyeene Teh, Adena Jacobs & Ho Tzu Nyen