Sunday 17 January 2016

Identity art exhibition - Midsumma Festival preview

Cultural theorist Stuart Hall once asked, "how much do we retain, and how much do we give up of our cultural identity in order to be ourselves?" In Susan Maco Forrester's latest art exhibition, Identity - and presented as part of the Midsumma Festival - she explores these ideas and looks at how we go about forming our identity and the importance of knowing who we are and where we came from.

While someone's personal identity can often be difficult to define in its most simplest terms, in Forrester's case it is understandable. Forrester is a GLBTIQ woman of Somali/Scottish heritage with her family coming to Australia as '20 pound poms' in 1974. Furthermore, Forrester's mother was also the first Somali woman to settle in Australia. "I have been reflecting whilst installing my show, about how much of my identity has developed from myself and how much has been put on me, so to speak," she explains. "Growing up I had often felt like I lived on the fringe, not really wholly belonging to Western or African cultures. What I have found interesting, is that in my experience, identity is not something that Anglo Australians think about in describing themselves."

"Identity is a concept that is thought of for others, so for someone like me, of mixed Celtic and African heritage, who lives in Western society, often it is only my African heritage that  is seen as my identity. However, already being used to being a fringe dweller really helped me when i 'came out', so I guess my idea of my identity has been formed by and strengthened by living on the edge of, and having one foot in a few camps." 

While identity can often be difficult to define, Forrester believes it is incredibly important for people to be able to have a sense of their own identity. "It is critical to have the strength to define your own sense of self, by taking what you connect with from your culture(s) and equally important to reject what conflicts. I believe cultural identity needs to be fluid and evolving, our ancestors may be our cultural foundations but we are our cultural future."

Forrester uses a range number of art forms in Identity to explore concepts of cultural, personal and ethnic identity, including video, photographs and sculptures. Just as identity can mean different things to different people, so to does the presentation of the work need to be varied, she explains. "I have a raft of subject matter, we live in a digital age, identity is complex and diverse, so I have needed to explore some of this diversity across multiple art forms." 

While those who visit the exhibition will have their own personal experiences and ideas of what their identity is, Forrester hopes that it will provoke internal and external dialogue on who we are, how we got here and where we go to next. "I hope that anyone who honours me by coming along will walk away surprised, challenged and delighted!"

Venue: Wyndham Art Gallery, 177 Watton St, Werribee, 3030
Season: 20 January - 6 March | Mon-Fri 9-5, Sat-Sun 11-4

Tickets: FREE

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