Zanny Begg | These Stories Will be Different

Zanny Begg is an Australian artist and filmmaker interested in contested histories.

These Stories Will Be Different brings together three of the artist’s most significant video installations, including The City of Ladies (with Elise McLeod) 2017, The Beehive 2018, and Stories of Kannagi 2019. Between them, these works reimagine a medieval feminist utopia, probe the unsolved murder of a high-profile anti-gentrification campaigner and explore the connections between love, loss, and language in diasporic communities.

The videos tell stories, but they also challenge the politics of storytelling itself. Drawing on ancient literary traditions, non-linear timeframes, and computer-generated randomisation, Zanny Begg invites you to see the world differently.

Also travelling with the tour as optional inclusions are the single channel films 1001 Nights in Fairfield, 2015 and The Bullwhip Effect, 2017.


If you think history is on your side, let me tell you women did not write these books. If they did, the stories would be different

Christine de Pizan

Zanny Begg | These Stories Will be Different, installation view at Plimsoll Gallery, University of Tasmania, 2022. Photo by Collings Creative.


The Beehive 2018 explores the unsolved murder of Sydney anti-gentrification campaigner and glamorous style icon Juanita Nielsen. Juanita campaigned against the violent eviction of tenants from Kings Cross and Potts Point, who were being pushed out to make way for apartment blocks. On July 4, 1975, Juanita was last seen entering a venue managed by one of Sydney’s most notorious crime bosses. Her body has never been found; her murderers never charged.

The Beehive uses an algorithm to create a randomised non-linear video installation that allows multiple versions of the story to unfold.  There are over 1344 versions of the film, and each viewing offers a unique insight into this unsolved mystery.

The title references Juanita’s famous hairdo and a common metaphor used to describe cities. In classical times the beehive was seen as a hierarchical and densely industrious hub; in pre-Christian symbolism, the beehive was a dark cooperative womb guided by a powerful queen. This clash between utilitarian and feminist interpretations of our cities provides a poetic tension that flows through the film.

> View an excerpt of The Beehive HERE


The City of Ladies 2017 (co-directed with Elise McLeod) is a non-linear video installation produced in collaboration with Elise McLeod. It takes inspiration from The Book of the City of Ladies, written by France’s first professional female writer, Christine de Pizan. Written in Paris in 1402, Pizan imagines a utopian city built, populated, and governed by women. Begg and McLeod developed the work with a group of young Parisian feminists inviting contributions from Hélène Cixous, Silvia Federici, Sam Bourcier, Fatima Ezzahra Benomar and Sharone Omankoy.

The participants explore life for women in contemporary Paris – a city divided over responses to terrorism and home to the inspiring Nuit debout (Rise up at Night) protest movement. Aspects of Pizan’s book weave through the work, conveying both the persistence of misogyny and feminist modes of resistance.

The non-linear form of the work is created by an algorithm that randomly combines more than fifty sequences to create over 300,000 possible story variations. Its constantly changing nature generates new associations between the various narratives while allowing the work to exist within a specific time and place.


The City of Ladies Excerpt (co-directed with Elise McLeod) from Zanny Begg on Vimeo.


Stories of Kannagi 2019 explores the impacts of colonisation and civil war on Tamil communities living outside of Sri Lanka by looking at interrelated issues of love, language, and storytelling. The film reimagines the 2000-year-old story of Kannagi, a young woman who is forced into exile by her husband’s misdeeds yet defends him against injustice in their new homeland. When her husband is executed for a crime he did not commit, Kannagi confronts the King, proving his innocence through a powerful speech.

Initiated by Jiva Parthipan and created in collaboration with members of the Tamil community in Western Sydney, Stories of Kannagi features three Tamil writers based in Australia who, like Kannagi, use language as a form of resistance. Niromi de Soyza is the author of Tamil Tigress (2011), a memoir of her experiences as a child soldier in the Sri Lankan civil war; Shankari Chandran is the author of Song of the Sun God (2017), a three-generation saga across Sri Lanka and Australia; and Srisha Sritharan is a NSW singer and performer.

Read about Stories of Kannagi’s inclusion in the Blake Prize

Stories of Kannagi teaser from Zanny Begg on Vimeo.


Fairfield, Sydney, is often referred to as “Little Baghdad” because of its large Iraqi population. 1001 Nights in Fairfield / الف ليلة وليلة في فيرفيلد was produced in collaboration with the Choir of Love through a residency with Powerhouse Youth Theatre Fairfield and STARTTS (Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors). The project engages with the politics of storytelling by loosely referencing Scheherazade’s struggle, in One Thousand and One Nights , to prolong her life by entertaining a murderous King with a series of inventive cliffhangers. The film combines documentary, imaginary sequences and improvised fictions to explore the pressure of telling a story to survive. [Text from Artist’s website]


Commissioned by Joni Taylor, New Landscapes Institute, for the exhibition The Long Paddock, Wagga Wagga Art Gallery. The Bullwhip Effect stars Emiliqua East, a 17-year-old rising champion of whipcracking, in a video-performance at the Live Stock Exchange, a heritage listed building in East Gipsland, Victoria. [Text from Artist’s website]


Zanny Begg, The Beehive, UNSW Galleries, photograph by Maria Boyagdis, copyright Audrey Magazine.


Zanny Begg is a video installation artist who works across drawing, film, social and spatial practice to explore questions of feminism, migration, and ecological and intergenerational responsibility. Often creating intricate worlds through drawing costumes and backdrops, Zanny is interested in the loops and twists of time that reveal previously submerged or hidden histories. Based on unceded lands in the Dharawal Nation, Bulli, Zanny’s recent exhibitions include Sharjah, Taipei, Labin, Limerick, Odessa and Istanbul Biennales, in THE NATIONAL 2017, NEW AUSTRALIAN ART, UTOPIA PULSE at the Secession, Vienna, STATECRAFT (AND BEYOND), National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, MONA FOMA, Tasmania, SYDNEY FESTIVAL 2020, NOVA GALLERY, Zagreb and OK VIDEO FESTIVAl, Jakarta.

Zanny was awarded the 2023 Create Australia Visual Arts Fellowship. She is the winner of the 66th Blake Prize Established Artist Residency 2021, the 2018 winner of the inaugural ACMI and Artbank film commission, the 2016 winner of the Incinerator Art Award, Art for Social Change, the 2016 winner of the Terrence and Lynnette Fern Cite Residency Paris; and was chosen by Werner Herzog to attend his Rogue Film School, in Munich, 2015.

Zanny is an advocate for the Arts and has been on the Artist Advisory Board of the Museum of Contemporary Art, a mentor for Accessible Arts, and, on the Board of Management for the South Coast Writer’s Centre.

Zanny Begg’s website


Redland Art Gallery, QLD
30 January – 13 March 2022

Shoalhaven Regional Gallery, NSW
2 April – 28 May 2022

Devonport Regional Gallery, TAS
4 June – 9 July 2022

Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, NSW
23 July – 18 September 2022

Plimsoll Gallery, University of Tasmania, TAS
10 December 2022 – 29 January 2023

Tamworth Regional Gallery, NSW
11 February – 2 April 2023

Swan Hill Regional Gallery, VIC
29 April – 12 June 2023

Artspace Mackay, QLD
19 August –  12 November 2023

Goldfields Art Centre, WA
24 November 2023 – 2 February 2024

The Glasshouse Regional Gallery, Port Macquarie, NSW
2 March – 5 May 2024


If you would like to host this exhibition in late 2024 or in 2025, please contact Susan Wacher:



A UNSW Galleries and Museums & Galleries of NSW touring exhibition.