Friday 11th September
A Discussion: “Identity as Identification”
“Identities are never pre-given but are always the result of a process of identification”
– Chantal Mouffe, ‘Agonistic Spaces, Artistic Activism’, p4
Intention: using images as a starting point for discussion I had planned to explore the process of identification and it’s relationship to identity as a cultural construct. To make it personal, I asked people to share an image of an identity they have associated with. This turned out to be a more complicated an challenging request than anticipated!
Y. I feel personally that I don’t identify. I probably need to dig deeper…
Y. Cloning is Identity isn’t it because it means The Same, isn’t it?
M. I guess! An identity when it becomes a concept is one step removed from reality.
Y. Yes, can you say again what Mouffe said about it?
M. The gist of it is: “Identity is never pre-given, it’s always a process of identification.” The idea being that all identity is positioning yourself with or against a cultural concept.
M. I kind of think… I pose that we don’t understand what identity is… I feel like I am just starting to see it. What’s identity to you?
Y. Subjectivity is a concept that makes more sense to me, it emphasises the difference within yourself and the relationship between I and the other. Whereas identity is actually the assumption of sameness. That’s why it’s so political. Where there is strong identification there is no boundaries between me and the the other. This is where I think identity would be the right word when it’s unchecked, when it is adopted without thinking.
Me, not me, and the ‘other’ within
M: The other thing I noticed is that all of the things I associate with as things I’ve identified with are things I am now consciously trying to let go of because I know they are not me. And I want the choice to act in that role, but I don’t want to act in that role by default, by conditioning.
M. And another thing, we were talking yesterday about “we” and “they” and how “we” often automatically implies a “they”… and suddenly I became aware of the fact there is an “I” but I also contain an “other” within me. While I’ve adopted behaviours and roles because it seems like a good safety mechanism or I get approval or it seems to be me, but the “other” is the less desirable, the things I don’t want to be me, my other face.
K. By “other” do you mean the face you put on to the rest of the world?
M. I think that in order to fit into society and culture we become conditioned, necessarily, we become socialised, and we begin to identify with certain roles and behaviours, and we adopt the desirable qualities and roles as our identity. [Our identity is our face to the world]. While the “other” within is what I haven’t been so willing to show to the world if it doesn’t fit with the ‘acceptable’ idea of myself.
I: Identity always appears in the really crummy questions that come up in A level Art.
M. And at that age they are working out who they are and who they want to be in the world.
I. And that’s why this kind of engagement is really interesting and critical for that age group. We’ve been talking about education and understanding not being limited to this week and CAS, could we go into colleges because the language and ideas we have are very different and the ideas they have are no less relevant.
I. At A level Identity is dished out on a plate. Why are we serving 16yr olds with ‘Identity’ is that forming the problem rather than solving one?
K. If you’re a teenager and you’re given a project that is about ‘me’ and about identity you’re then just confirming what they’ve already learnt, that these roles [that you identify with] are who you are.
Maija Liepins is collaborating with Kirsty Smith and Isaac Whitcombe during the Laboratory of Dissent project, an experimental 5 week project at The Winchester Gallery. You are invited join the discussion about dissent, and its associated themes (such as identity) at the Laboratory of Dissent Symposium on 23 – 24 September. Book today on Eventbrite.