Banh Chung performance-installation

Artist Chi Vu presents a meditation on impermanence and transition caused by war, migration and peace.

Bánh chưng, a traditional Vietnamese rice cake that is an important element in every family’s celebration of Tet (the Lunar New Year), is also the essential ingredient of artist Chi Vu’s latest offering co-presented by Footscray Community Arts Centre and Kultour, as part of Melbourne’s Big West Festival.

A unique and sensory performance installation, written and directed by Vu, Banh Chung features award-winning stage and screen actor Amanda Ma in a sculptural environment created by international visual artist Naomi Ota, with sound design by Bendigo-based Jacques Soddell.

‘In shaping this new work,’ says Vu, ‘I have drawn on increasingly rare traditional culinary practices, mythical legends and historical events associated with the Lunar New Year (Tet) as my inspiration, to confront the legacy of colonialism, war and mass migration experienced, or inherited, by people like me.’

Invited into the space at spaced intervals by a performer preparing the bánh chưng cake, audience members are immersed in a sensory environment of smell, sight and sound. As they move through the sculptural environment, the audience listens to a number of sound plays through headphones.

‘It is a meditative experience, in a space that is like a zen cosmic kitchen. Just as the bánh chưng ingredients are prepared and transformed during our performance, so is the audience,’ says Vu.

In developing the work, Chi Vu has assembled some of Australia’s most exciting artists and performers including Jacques Soddell, Amanda Ma, Rani Pramesti, Ferdinand Hoang, Aljin Abella and Naomi Ota.

WHEN: 1pm – 8pm, 21 – 25 November, The Performance Space, Footscray Community Arts Centre. RUNNING TIME is approx. 60 min.

Written and directed by CHI VU, with JACQUES SODDELL (Sound Artist), NAOMI OTA (Installation Artist), AMANDA MA (Site and Audio Performer), RANI PRAMESTI (Site Performer), FERDINAND HOANG (Audio Performer), ALJIN ABELLA (Audio Performer), TON-THAT QUYNH-DU (Cultural Advisor), Peter Eckersall (Dramaturg), Jude Anderson (Dramaturg). Photos by JAVE LEE. Video by DAVID MEAGHER.


Reviews & Media Coverage

‘The audience is invited to move between pieces via a 50 minute audio track; to be impacted by the site performers without truly interacting with them; to be affected by the audio performers whilst choosing which visual cues will accompany the performance. Audience members are invited into the space a few moments apart, in twenty minute intervals, by one of the performers. This allows each experience to differ slightly – and sometimes significantly – from every other experience: as one might in migration or dislocation.’ – Stephanie Lai, Peril.

‘Chi Vu’s performance installation Banh Chung is a meditation on war and migration focusing on the Vietnamese experience. It is named after a sticky rice, mung bean and slow-cooked pork cake, traditionally made to celebrate Tet, the Vietnamese New Year holiday. It’s a sort of audio tour that takes in mythological Vietnam, and the legend surrounding the Banh Chung recipe; Vietnam during the civil war, and the legacy of violence and displacement it left behind; and the diaspora, through the voices of two lovers reunited in Australia. Minimalist physical theatre (Amanda Ma, Rani Pramesti) and six stages tied to the preparation of the dish consume the space, and you get a slice of Banh Chung at the end (it’s delicious).’ – Cameron Woodhead, The Age.

Bánh chưng’ và nỗi niềm của một thế hệ di dân – by Lili Từ, ABC Radio Australia (in Vietnamese).



The Banh Chung installation-performance script is available from Australian Plays. It can be performed entirely in English or in Vietnamese and English.


Excerpt – Australia/Diaspora


Excerpt – Tet 68/ Massacre


Banh Chung – full length video


Writer/director Chi Vu talks about her process in making the Banh Chung installation-performance

Chi Vu’s Banh Chung installation-performance is supported by the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria. Banh Chung is co-presented by Footscray Community Arts Centre and Kultour, as part of Big West Festival. The initial performance development was supported by Punctum, Abbotsford Convent, the City of Yarra and the Australia Council for the Arts.