Individuality is yours and only yours it’s what makes you who
you are, its shaped by your upbringing social circles and your general
approaches to situations in life. E.g. how you handled a tense situation in the
past can have major psychological backlash on your psyche. Directly effecting
your identity. The nature of an individual’s identity is complex and fickle but
thankfully simple in nature, allowing itself to be influenced by practically
all sources be they material or verbal. Although this allows for easy
understanding if your aware your identity is subject to change you can be more
cautious of who you listen to as take heart to negativity and pessimism will
make you doubt yourself.
It’s almost cliché in
films and tv when someone loses themselves/identity in perusing a goal or
hanging around and changing for a new group of friends to be accepted. However,
by the end of the episode they have been returned to their old self showing
just how easily morphed we are. Many theorists argue were a collection of
identity’s all shaped and used at specific times suited for their intended
roles. Examples for this are social situations that maybe haven’t been
encountered or properly prepared for. People would say but on a brave face,
could this not mean to become a more confident and dominant person? The same
goes for interviews for jobs you tailor yourself for the role truly try to self
yourself to the buyer however losing your identity in doing so.
There’s also the more literal way of defining identity such
as Race, Gender, religion, age all valid and important fields. Although they
simply add to and act as starting points, anchors almost into the world it’s up
to the individual to craft their identity from their experience of life. The
roles we attain in life such as a mother or a firefighter come with
expectations and tasks that shape another identity that must work in unison
with everything that comprises your other identity’s. They then all take on a
hierarchy system “The Various identities that comprise the self-exist in a
hierarchy of salience”- (Stryker,S, 1968)
Meaning that in situations the higher-ranking identities are
more likely to be at play than lower ranking ones. E.G a family man would
always put his family first in any given situation thus he has a father
identity. However, his choices may seem alien to a man that hasn’t got a family
to look after their self would prioritise different things.
Cultural Identity is mostly believed to be the birthplace or
origins of somebody, someone that’s born in Africa would have African culture
but this is simply the start. Cultures can be appropriated and merged into
Due to globalisation, many people can experience an
abundance of different cultures food, clothing, music leading to them to create
a new cultural identity. Gordon Mathews
refers to this as the “Global cultural Supermarket” but it leads to the gain of
a more diverse cultural identity but a loss of the sense of cultural home, “We Can’t
have both all the worlds cultures to choose from and our own cultural
particularity. If you believe that you can choose aspects of your life and
culture from all the world, then where is your home?”- (Gordon Mathews, 2002)
Building Desires is photographic project by Mahtab Hussain
encapsulating the complex struggles of identity and the self within British born
Pakistani community’s. The series focuses on the agitated youth born in
Britain, trying to find themselves and how they fit inside the modern
British/Pakistani culture. Bringing up discussion around clash of global
cultures, their family’s culture directly clashes with their nationality and
creates a tense hurdle for their developing identity’s. Hussain captures the
young men’s individuality by capturing pictures of them in the gym, Giving
direct shows of power through performance. His work directly relates to the
clash of identity hierarchy’s in the form of family traditions and religion and
the birthplaces customs.
Masculinity is also a key theme and is often viewed as a
direct means to express strength and power, in the building desire series they
all share a new join identity. That of avid bodybuilder with the subjects being
shown off almost flexing or performing exercises. Someone could be quick to
assume the works are meant to be intimidating but their simply reflections of
the struggles of the young men’s life’s, they must toughen up and have made the
bodybuilder identity a large factor in their identity ladder. “The project is
an introduction to my practice and considers three key elements of masculinity.
The young boy bound by cultural and religious constraints. The teenager who
begins to form a new identity on the streets away from the security of family.
And the contemporary Pakistani male who has adopted desirable mainstream ideals
of what it means to be a man living in the UK”- (Mahtab Hussain, 2012)
Referring to the global cultural supermarket the young men
are clearly experiencing even if unwillingly the benefits and negatives of it.
Being in a country with completely different customs and clashing culture and
religious practices. The men have had their identity’s melded by this and it’s
up to them what they become or identify as. Although they have a key sense of their lust
to be masculine and express it wilfully.
The series also touches upon the living situations and
community’s often experiencing lack of income, although their tightly knit
community’s and family’s give them an abundance of real wealth that can’t be
brought. “Perhaps the answer is that it is necessary to slow down, finally
giving up on economistic fanaticism and collectively rethink the true meaning
of the word “wealth” wealth does not mean a person owns a lot, but refers to
someone who has enough time to enjoy what nature and human collaboration place
within everyone’s reach. If the great majority of people could understand this
basic notion, if they could be liberated from the competitive illusion this is impoverishing
everyone’s life, the very foundations of capitalism would start to crumble”- (Franco
Bifo Beradi, 2009)
Paul Richmond Presents a series of paintings titled War
Paint: New images of Men and Masculinity. The works focus around his own
experience of growing up as a young gay man and feeling unworthy in society’s
eyes of being a true man. And his breakthrough or setting free of this fear and
setting a firm identity within himself and society. He challenges people’s
views on masculinity in a completely different way to Hussain his works feature
smaller built men not necessarily masculine in the conventional sense but they
are proud and wear male colours with confidence. The colour blue is a very male
colour and Richmond plays with the idea of painting it as war paint over the
portraits to signify their ignoring of the status quo and daring to wear
colours he feels represent himself and his portraiture subjects.
Richmond’s work inspires people to find and express their
true identity’s and not fear repercussions or social fallout if their perceived
identities are changed or altered. There isn’t one single masculinity
definition, its attained through hardships and self-expression Richmond’s works
invite the viewer to challenge what the portraits are wearing and colours used.
It allows for a self-directed narrative to be formed giving the work depth and
feel. The textured paints work to give a complexity and feel for time this is
nicely paired with the theme of finding identity as it’s a complex and labours
task not coming easily to anyone. No matter their confidence of having found
their self as it might not be accepted by society or they might be to fearful
to truly express it.
The work calls for a time where everyone is accepted for who
they are as individuals globally, allowing for complete expression of one’s
self is a key factor in finding happiness and learning to love oneself. “We must recognize that the future we attempt
to “make present” to our- selves and to one another is not simply “out there”
ready and waiting for us, but remains always to be established, always to be
contested, always to be remade again. In this manner, we might best emulate the
examples of Craig Owens in only ever speaking for ourselves”- (Craig Owens,1994)
This quote rings true for a lot of themes in art not just
identity, arts a catalyst for change and promotes discussion around and or
about the subject. Identity is a very diverse and often personally problematic
issue that often gets forgotten or left out within society. We are just
expected to conform to present values and identity’s.
Our current age is governed by money and success forcing us
to compete for what we want and essentially sacrifice ourselves for our goals.
Breeding a twisted hyper competitive identity seeking to exploit our fellow man
for self-gain. “Money is our shelter, the only way we have to access life. But
at the same time, if you want money you have to renounce life.”- (Franco Bifo
In Franco Bifo Berardi’s book Hero’s: Mass Murder and
Suicide it explores the relation of absolute capitalism and its effects on
mental health. He takes an ironic approach at dystopia to separate and make us
aware of the darker side of absolute capitalism. His exploration into the mindset
of psychopaths and criminal minds offers a grisly outlook onto what causes
them, Berardi calls them heroes not in the sense of them being honourable and
courageous beacons of hope but in a sense of being the purest examples of the
given subject. He sees them as sick individuals but heroes of a sick society.
The relationships he connects between their justifications of their deranged
acts and the guidance of the super elites in their failed stewardship of the
global socio-economic regime.
When taking identity into account with this it’s depressing
at how some powerful elite individuals have become so ruling and oppressive.
Promoting their own values upon others, leading to in some cases suicides where
people don’t feel suited or welcome in the modern-day world. Its works like
Richmond’s and Hussain’s that are crucial for giving a sense of hope and
belonging to people that can’t express their identity’s properly and or are too
Art empowers people and helps start reaction and all
discussion its crucial for exploring identity for people. In of itself it is an
experience and can alter or add to someone’s self upon witnessing or
interacting. Representation of Identity is crucial in art and can be expressed
in an abundance of ways, identity’s will continue to be discovered and or
discarded as times change although art can portray any of them.
“Representation, then, is not- nor can it be – neutral; it is an act- indeed
the founding act- of power in our culture”- (Craig Owens, 1994)
This quote sums up why identity of all kinds must be
represented even if its disliked by many, it must be made to assert itself and
become something in society. Once it’s in and enveloped within a culture it can
eventually join the global culture and become Widley available to everyone.
Spreading discussion through all viewers and critics alike. Craig Owens himself is an activist and would
have no doubt stuck up for anyone being oppressed and or shunned for simply
trying to be themselves. Richmond’s work details his own personal struggle
visually, leaving the viewer with a raw self-interpretable story. His work is
empowering and challenges people to express themselves. Representation is key
to creating power in culture as Craig Owens stated above.
In conclusion, the artists accomplish their task in
representing the identity and the self within their work, Richmond’s giving a
very personal story through expressive paintings focusing on colour and texture
to explore and question masculinity. Not only in himself but also questioning
the viewer and challenging society’s outlook and acceptance of his identity.
Both works either call for change or come after change is
for the most part accepted within their given community, although globally
theirs a lot left to change are or create to for everyone to feel accepted.
Arts a key factor in assuring change and developing people’s appreciation and
acceptance of new found cultures and identity, enriching the global cultural
supermarket and creating more diversity and identity for anyone and everyone.
Hussain’s work questions a community and cultural identity
and brings a host of issues surrounding the pursuit and development of young
men’s identity’s. Facing many conflicting issues in their life and their part
in it. Hussain’s work is left up to the viewer to create a narrative and
doesn’t give as much background into the work as Richmond. But this works in
capturing the viewer and letting them ponder on the meaning. As for critics,
their role is crucial in creating theory’s and testing ideas, for the
development of discussion around art and culture.
All in all, identity is a diverse and essentially unending
area in art to explore but armed with the knowledge of how to create, assert
and meld your identities into a hierarchy you’ll have a greater understanding
and aptitude when trying to decipher identity in art and in others. Along with
a greater understanding of your own vulnerability when exposed to the influences
from surrounding social circles, media and culture, effecting your identity and
bringing you to question yourself at times.
Art should continue to challenge identity and its associated
meanings and relation to culture. Breaking stereotypes fighting against the
grouping and labelling of someone passed on one aspect of their identity.
People shouldn’t be expected to think or act in a certain way just due to their
relationship with specific social circles or career choices, we are amazingly
diverse individuals. When someone questions themselves and asks questions about
their identity let art be a stepping stone, a bold burst of courage on the path