Living in a Western society, for the most part, we are taught to be open-minded; to want to learn and experience new things, embrace new ideas. Though, the comfort resultant of the acceptance of their appearance is a luxury not afforded to many.
So, what does it feel like to be put under the microscope?
To exist under the label of ‘other’ or ‘the exotic’, whereby elements of your heritage and physicality are taken as a novelty or something to be pondered on by strangers?
Patterns of Migration, by Haneen Martin, explores the concept of exoticism, relating to her own experiences growing up not only with a culturally diverse heritage, but in an Australian climate that has time and time again, challenged, rather than embraced her culture and individuality.
A brand new visual art exhibition opening in Adelaide this week, Haneen takes us through the project and the discoveries she’s made along the way.
Tell us the origins of this project and what propelled you to form this particular exhibition?
This is the exhibition I have been wanting to have for a long while. I am still finding my voice and my place in the Australian art scene, which makes it difficult and intimidating to make anything too confrontational and political. Because this residency at Nexus is designed for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) artists, I felt completely free to properly explore themes that I have avoided from fear of appearing to be too negative, too dramatic and making work that won’t sell.
What would be one discovery you’ve made about yourself as a result of this creative process OR what has been something/a belief you’ve held that have been reinforced as a result?
Even though most of this exhibition is about my own experiences, it was important to me to give a voice to other people of cultural backgrounds in the form of an anonymous survey. Some of these answers, which reinforced the feeling I have, where being non-white = other, will be shown in the exhibition through embroidery of graphs on calico bags.
Is there any particular piece that will be part of the exhibition that you’ve held especially close that you’re keen for people to learn more about?
I am so attached to every piece in this exhibition, it has been a labour intensive project. I hope that every unfamiliar concept will spark questions and get people interested in something new. My use of colour has definitely been a driving force in this exhibition. I want people to feel something when they enter the gallery, sensory or otherwise.
The concept of ‘exoticism’ is one that is well rooted in Western society and has been for generations; how would you say it’s become a prominent issue that a younger, would-be ‘more informed’ demographic still deals with today?
It is actually so interesting because we live in a time where we have all the information we would ever need at our fingertips, so we can no longer plead ignorance when it comes to cultural appropriation and exposure to other cultures.
How can exhibitions like this one serve as a good entry point for other to learn more about the different cultural communities we have in our own cities?
This exhibition is in a central space, a quiet gallery, during probably the busiest time for our city, so I really hope it reaches people who would never have seen my work usually.
There are so many levels to this project, which I think encapsulates exactly how complicated life is. On one hand, I have all the different motifs and handicraft to symbolise my culture. I also have my own personal symbols and ideas attached to my own memories of moving and trying to maintain a balance between tradition, contemporary life and just fitting in in a Western society.
For example, my mum and I have both woven ketupat, traditionally woven leaves which you would use to cook compressed rice, except we only taught ourselves how to make it just for this exhibition as we were so privileged growing up and had other people around to do it for us. My grandmother was the last one and tried to teach me, but I never practiced as it was just another thing that made me different from my peers.
Patterns of Migration opens at the Nexus Gallery in Adelaide on February 9th from 6pm. For more information, head here.
Photo by Jonno Revanche.