Curated by Nanette Orly
Exhibiting work by Talia Smith, Roberta Rich, Get to Work, Nathan Beard and Dana Davenport
The premise of a blurred cultural identity resonates with many mixed heritage individuals living in countries or regions that have shared histories. Interracial relationships were particularly topical at the beginning of the twentieth century with some of that stigma still lingering in society today. In the past, it wasn’t uncommon for mixed-race children to have been categorised as monoracial, which is limiting to identity development. The formation of cultural identity, as a mixed race person, is continuously shaped by social interactions and environmental factors. This process can span across a lifetime due to shifting internal and external forces such as family structure, physical appearance, geographic location and cultural knowledge. A biracial or multiracial individual may go through stages of racial ignorance and ambivalence before moving towards appreciation. In this final stage of transcendence there is an apparent shift towards emotional reconciliation and solidification of cultural identity, that can be both public and private. Once chosen, this unique identity then becomes cherished.
‘Transcendence’ considers how artists of mixed backgrounds utilise their practices to negotiate and deconstruct their own identities: if they identify more firmly with one particular culture, the perception of being in two places at once, or combining their own cultural histories to construct their own unique self identity. This exhibition brings together the work of local and international artists who reference their mixed heritage in a variety of mediums ranging from installation, video works, sculptural pieces and performance. Each contribution draws from personal experience and offers some insight on how to navigate through a medley of cultural backgrounds.
Nanette Orly is an emerging curator based in Sydney, Australia. Her curatorial practice is deeply engaged with themes surrounding identity development and offering alternative perceptions on contemporary society. Drawn to fine techniques and research-based practices to form interdisciplinary group or collaborative exhibition concepts, Orly has curated exhibitions in artist run galleries across Sydney. She is a Co-Director of artist run initiative Cold Cuts in Petersham and in 2018, will complete her Master of Curating and Cultural Leadership at UNSW Art & Design.
Talia Smith is an artist and curator of Samoan, Cook Island and New Zealand European descent. Originally from New Zealand she is now based in Sydney, Australia. Her visual arts and curatorial practice utilises the mediums of photography and video to examine the emotional and physical traces we leave behind on the landscape, the histories we build and the ruins we leave. She has exhibited and curated shows at artist run spaces in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and New York with solo shows in both Australia and New Zealand. Smith is the founder and Co-Director of new artist run initiative Cold Cuts, is 2017’s emerging curator at Firstdraft and completed a residency with Bundanon Trust in August, 2017. In 2018, Smith will be undertaking her Masters of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales.
Born 1988, Geelong, Australia. Roberta Rich is an emerging artist who examines notions of “authenticity” with regards to concepts of identity, exploring her ‘Coloured’ South African and Australian identity and its capacity to ‘pass’, ’fail’ and ‘speak’ in varying contexts within her arts practice. In doing so, Rich explores South African and Australian colonial histories, fetishism of African identity and the complexities of representations of African identity, drawing from historical, socio-political, media and pop culture. Often referencing her diasporic South African identity and experiences of “racial interrogation”, Rich’s work is heavily research based, employing ambiguity, language and satire in her video, installation, print, performance and text projects. Rich completed her MFA at Monash University, and completed a studio residency at Assemblage in Johannesburg, 2016. Since her residency she has been working more recently between Australia and South Africa, exhibiting in Johannesburg (Wits Art Museum), Melbourne (Blak Dot Gallery) and Sydney (UNSW Galleries). Rich has recently been awarded the 2017 Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship for Emerging Artists which will see her next year embark on a self directed research residency in Johannesburg and Cape Town, exploring slave histories in the Cape and the history of the South African Institute of Race Relations.
Get to Work
Get to Work is the collaborative practice of Tracy Quan, Georgia Taia and Paris Taia. All members graduated from Sydney College of the Arts in 2015, with Paris and Tracy holding degrees in photomedia, and Georgia in sculpture, performance and installation. Coming from different studio practices, their collaboration focuses on the body, amateur dance and performance to playfully explore quirks of contemporary living, social behaviour and cultural identity. The pursuit to find social belonging is often humorously explored through music and dance, relieving the potential pressures, particularly in Australia, to be culturally categorised.
Nathan Beard (b.1987) is Perth-based interdisciplinary artist who works across mediums including photography, video and sculpture. His practice is primarily concerned with the influences of culture, memory and biography, in particular through the prism of his Thai-Australian heritage. Beard’s work often includes intimate and sincere engagements with family to poignantly explore the complex ways a sense of heritage and identity is negotiated.
Beard holds a Bachelor of Arts (Art) with First Class Honours from Curtin University. His collaboration with artists Abdul Abdullah and Casey Ayres, ‘The Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere’, was presented at the NGV Studio for the 2012 Next Wave Festival ‘the space between us wants to sing’. Exhibitions include ‘Memento Mori’, Lawrence Wilson Gallery (2014), ‘Obitus’, Moana Project Space (2014), ‘Ad Matres’, Artereal Gallery (2015), ‘Future Archaeology’, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art (2015), ‘Radical Ecologies’, PICA (2016), ‘Alone and Palely Loitering’, Firstdraft (2017) and ‘WA Focus: Nathan Beard’, Art Gallery of Western Australia (2017).
Dana Davenport is a Korean and Black American photographer and performance artist. Her work incorporates themes related to the body, ethnicity, and their interwoven relationship to social mores and institutional structures. Davenport addresses the complexity of interminority racism and credits whiteness as the beneficiary of these conflicts. She received a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Photography from School of Visual Arts in New York City. Davenport’s work has been exhibited in London, Rio de Janeiro, New York City, and throughout the United States including ‘Within a Circuit’ at NARS Foundation, ‘Brown Paper Zine & Small Press Fair’ at Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, and ‘Displacement’ at Ugly Duck gallery. She has performed at Watermill Center, K&P Gallery, RE: Art Show, BUFU Studios and has completed SOHO20 Gallery’s artist residency program in 2017. Davenport is a recipient of the SVA Chairman’s Merit Award Scholarship and Rhodes Family Award for Outstanding Achievement in Photography.