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Hagshama Double Coding – Exhibition by Ben Rak

Longing and Belonging

On Tuesday, 24th September, the community joined Hagshama Sydney at Flinders Street Gallery in Surry Hills, to view an exhibition called Double Coding by Jewish Artist – Ban Rak.

In portraying the signifiers of his identity, Rak has produced an accomplished and complex body of work and one that could be seen as a significant contribution from an artist of the diaspora.

Visitors wagged their chins, sipped some wine, and scratched their heads…

One cannot help but be mesmerised by Rak’s window display.

While in a secular sense Rak identifies with Judaism as his cultural group, he is inevitably aligned with the perpetual expression of his traditional cultural conventions.

The 21st century has emerged as a century of enhanced globalisation, forced a reorganisation of new economic models of ruthlessly competitive production and witnessed the establishment of a plethora of media platforms. These evolving characteristics of society have changed how we perceive our own identities and raised questions relative to whether we define ourselves based solely on the common conventions of identity such as ethnicity, nationality and religion. This project Double Coding seeks to address, through a form of personal narrative, this question of perceived identity – a key theme in art for centuries.

Beginning with an exploration of the meaning of cultural belonging—the understanding of shared myths, customs, symbols, and jargon, and their underlying subtext Ben Rak identifies the importance of these shared experiences in a range of cultural contexts. By isolating indexes of both his Jewish heritage and an affiliation with surfing subculture he deliberately positions them within the conventions of media narratives and clichés. Therefore creating an amalgamation of iconic emblems becoming a type of performance in which we all take part, each presenting our own cultural alignments and involving an interaction with the audience, shifting between action and reaction.

The artworks are intended to demonstrate the transition from what used to be considered a fundamental identity, such as an association with an ethnic group, as opposed to a seemingly less authentic identity epitomized by the performance of media clichés, stereotypes, and narratives, an identity that is no longer definable for more than a moment as we progress through our life’s path.

The work is created across a diverse range of media, mostly those based on printmaking techniques. Many of these techniques were initially developed as commercial production processes, implying that consumer influences play a role in the construction of our identity. They toy with the relationship between surface and depth both visually and conceptually, questioning whether our identity is more about exterior than interior.

Gallery is open until 5th October 2013.

For more information, contact Hagshama on 02 9360 6300 or Hagshama@zionistcouncil.com.au