Rachael Rakena
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Maui tikitiki a Tauranga
year: 2011
size: 320 x 350 x 180 mm
media: mixed media

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Exhibitions by Rachael Rakena
rachael rakena
poutereraki 8 - 26 november 2011

rachael rakena
he waiata whaiaipo
19 may - 13 june 2009

brett graham and rachael rakena
aniwaniwa stills 2008 9 march 2008

Rachael Rakena is a Maori artist and video artist who works, frequently in collaboration with others, to create richly-layered performative installations, dvds and digital stills.

Of Maori and European/Pakeha descent (Ngai Tahu, Nga Puhi) Rachael has a Master of Fine Arts (Distinction) and is a lecturer at Massey University, School of Maori Visual Arts. She has exhibited in New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, France, Britain and the United States. In 2007, Aniwaniwa a collaborative project with Brett Graham was included in the collateral events section of the 2007 Venice Biennale. In 2006, she and Graham represented New Zealand at the Sydney Biennale with the collaborative installation UFOB. Other major international exhibitions of recent years have included Pasifika Styles at Cambridge University in the UK, and in Dateline: Contemporary Art from the Pacific at Neuer Berliner Kunstverien.

In work that is both ethereal and political she employs a new language and new tools derived from digital media and video to invoke a contemporary Maori identity that is timeless and fluid. She is a highly innovative artist who explores the application of contemporary technology to articulate timeless notions of Maori culture and identity that flow from the past, through the present and into the future.

Rachael has coined the term 'Toi Rerehiko; as a means of describing and locating her practice. The word rerehiko plays on rorohiko the Maori word for computer, which translated literally means electric brain. Toi Rerehiko is a moving image art form immersed in Maori tradition, tikanga (custom) and values which uses digital and electronic media. Its principles, Rachael says, encompass concepts of continuum, immersion, movement and space.

Water is a prominent feature of Rakena's work and it is claimed as a tribal, Ngai Tahu, space - destabilising, she says, assumptions that Maori identity is exclusively land-based. It also operates metaphorically, providing a kind of amniotic fluid for the protection of culture.

Water is the medium in which floating text, performers, dancers operate, move and swim deliberately and consciously towards an unknown destiny or shore - much as migrants have always moved. Texts are claimed from whanau (family) emails using predominantly Maori words to become both visual signifiers of things Maori in cyberspace and to acknowledge how this electronic communication can continue to produce and support a collective culture and identity.

(Pacific Washup And UFOB)

Rachael Rakena first produced the video work 'Pacific Washup' during a residency at Sydney's Performance Space where she worked with Samoan artists Fez Fa'anana and Brian Fuata. It was further developed to provide the moving image component of the acclaimed installation (UFOB) which she developed in a collaboration with Brett Graham. UFOB, which is currently showing at Te Tuhi in Auckland, was first exhibited at the Sydney Biennale in 2006 and then shown at City Gallery Wellington in early 2007.

Pacific Washup and UFOB explore issues around migration. In strange and surreal scenes we see brown bodies, curiously wrapped in the cheap plastic carry-bags often used by travelers or tourists, washing up and arriving on Sydney's Bondi beach.

"The scenario here is comical, a Pythonesque allegory of migrant 'arrival' stories or a sci-fi parody about encountering the 'other' with its rampant metaphorisation of the alien and the stranger: giants, gods, cannibals, spirits, savages... SPICs, WOPs and FOBs.
But if the work is about projecting the 'other', it is also about imagining the 'self' in the Pacific 'contact zone'. The bags, we might recognize, are the kind typically used by Polynesians as luggage in their frequent air-crossings of the Pacific Ocean--part of the modern business of keeping up connections and relationships in the diaspora of the last few decades. Like cyberspace and digital media--like the Ocean itself once upon a time--the bags are a medium and symbol for this dispersed, expanded and mobile idea of contemporary Pacific identities."
Peter Brunt, Zones of Contact: 2006 Biennale of Sydney, p.122

Individual pieces from the UFOB installation are available.

Digital stills from the Pacific Washup series are also available, All images are unique prints, 450 x 600 mm