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Identity and Representation


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Identity and Representation

  3. 3. Representation refers to the use of language and images to create meaning about the world around us. These systems have rules and conventions about how to express and interpret meaning.
  4. 4. Do systems of representation reflect the world as it is, as a form of mimesis or imitation, or do we construct the world around us through our use of the systems of representation? Social constructionists argue that systems of representation do not reflect an already existing reality so much as they organize, construct, and mediate our understanding of reality, emotion, and imagination. However, the distinction can often be difficult to make. Alasdair Gray Self Portrait
  5. 5. ‘Expression’ is mediated Painters in particular often hold onto the notion of being a conduit of the unconscious, existing on an interior self Expressionism: Denies (external) mediation, maintains the notion of individual expression, of ‘natural’, it venerates the ‘touch of the artist’ , the expressive indexical. Abstract expressionism They align themselves to the idea that there is ‘a reality beyond representation’ and socio-historical connections are severed. The Expressive Fallacy: Hal Foster Jackson Pollock
  6. 6. Are these images simply a reflection or do they produce meanings?
  7. 7. How do each of these images represent different icons of motherhood?
  8. 8. How is the meaning of Edvard Munch’s, The Scream (1893), changed in each new context? How does the reproductions change the meaning of the original?
  9. 9. Society prefers to operate with fixed identities - they help to divide people into groups, to 'push' the groups into separated "boxes" and computer files (hierarchical or nested into one another), to label these boxes and files with names, numbers and codes, and then to do with them all sorts of manipulations. And above all, to exercise control. Fluid Identities
  10. 10. For many people, answering questions about identity begins by listing details that can be found on birth certificates–name, sex, ethnicity, and family origins. People wishing to research their family histories locate the birth certificates of known family members because these documents provide essential information about the identities of ancestors. The importance of birth certificates might suggest that identity is basically fixed and stable from the time of birth. Consider sex and ethnicity, two labels applied at birth that are at the heat of how many people think about identity. Both are generally understood as clear-cut categories from which identity is established. Frida Kahlo, My Birth (1932) David Shrigley
  11. 11. Grayson Perry Construction of identity through relationships; blurring of gender boundaries; dual identity
  12. 12. For example the cultural markers of identity that we choose–such as the types of cars we drive, the clothes we wear, and the music we listen to– can affect our sense of identity. These markers allow us to label ourselves and others as belonging to a particular social group or as having certain shared interests or values. Lucy McKenzie, “Bryan Ferry”
  13. 13. Orlan: a performance artists who uses her own body and the procedures of plastic surgery to make ‘carnal art’
  14. 14. ID cards show proof of the ever-evolving nature of identity. The photos in these cards never seem up-to-date and many of us carry pictures of family and friends that are also out-of-date. Pull out one of these old pictures or IDs and look for details that reveal a now-discarded or changed aspect of your identity.
  15. 15. We live in an age in which individual identity is widely conceived of as an artificial performance, a conglomeration of signs through which we are (not necessarily willingly) fixed. Yet at the same time we claim these socially imposed identities in order to unite within identity politics with others ‘like us’. That is to say: “We want our body to ‘be’ and yet we assert priority of the spirit (or language) over it; we and we are not our bodies.” Jennifer Blessing, Rrose is a Rrose is a Rrose: gender Performance in Photography, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1997, p112 Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp). 1921. Photograph by Man Ray
  16. 16. One way to think of the traditional distinction is to cite Freud, who asserted that although an individual's identity is socially constructed, not just naturally produced, the form it takes is conditioned by the inner psychological self.
  17. 17. Barbara Kruger, “No radio”, (1988)
  18. 18. “Does the body rule the mind Or does the mind rule the body ? I don´t know...” Morrissey, The Smiths: Still Ill, (1984)
  19. 19. Materiality and identity
  20. 20. Barbara Kruger "Untitled (I shop, therefore I am)" (1987) Later, French writers like Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and others rejected the tradition of Cartesian mind-body dualism that resonated in Rene Descartes’ dictum “ I think therefore I am” which expresses that our identity is to be characterised through thought, whereas now the focus of attention was shifted towards bodily experiences.
  21. 21. All identities, whether based on class, gender or ethnicity are social constructions. And there is no doubt that identity-construction is increasingly dependent on images.
  22. 22. There exist many theories that inform us that identity is determined, in each of them institutions play a crucial determining role; there is the family, the school, the place of work and increasingly the media. Richard Billingham, Liz Shaking Fist at Ray (1995)
  23. 23. Lois Lane in the 1950's television program Superman Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still #21
  24. 24. Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still #6 Sherman’s images are not an invitation to look behind or through the representation for the ‘real’ Sherman, but rather they are an exploitation of this impulse to drive a wedge between the unified and authentic inner self and the postmodern sense of an irrevocably fragmented and culturally constituted subjectivity.
  25. 25. Cindy Sherman Untitled Film Still #54 Sherman shows that to represent the self is to reproduce an already given type.
  26. 26. Sherman, Untitled #155, 1985. Cindy Sherman, Untitled #250, 1992 The seductive has been used to produce the grotesque. She accentuates the detachment of her mannequins thus highlighting the artificiality of identities and body constructs. In this sense her work is in line with recent cultural theory that demonstrates the ways in which identity, sexuality, nationality, or ethnicity should be seen as partial, provisional and constantly in process.
  27. 27. Gilbert & George, Bleeding Medals, 2008
  28. 28. However the notion that an individual might gain a sense of authenticity and connection with the self in and through the body is profoundly disturbed by the unstable appropriations and ideological representations of the body throughout the history of Western culture, and within an increasingly mediatized and technologically driven world.
  29. 29. Germaine Greer in The Whole Woman (1999): “Every woman knows that, regardless of her other achievements, she is a failure if she is not beautiful...” Martha Wilson I Make Up the Image of My Perfection/I Make Up the Image of My Deformity (2007
  30. 30. In these images, the woman is hypersexualized, objectified and clearly positioned for the male gaze. Her naked body is used as space to showcase men’s accessories. These accessories (sunglasses, belts, bags, etc.) are for sale and using a woman’s bodies as the shelves to display implies that women are available for consumption as well.
  31. 31. In psychoanalytic film criticism, the gaze is not the act of looking itself, but the viewing relationship characteristic of a particular set of social circumstances. The concept of the gaze is fundamentally about the relationship of pleasure and images.
  32. 32. In a typical female nude, a woman is posed so that her body is on display for the viewer, who is implied to be male. John Berger wrote that in his history of images, “men act, women appear.” The traditional roles of men and women are in upheaval and the theoretical concept of the male gaze has been rethought.
  33. 33. ‘Representation as a cultural process establishes individual and collective identities, and symbolic systems provide possible answers to the questions: who am I?; what could I be?; who do I want to be?’ (p14). On how identities are connected with the world of media and the images which it surrounds us with, she writes:
  34. 34. Even if we kept faith with a mind/body split or a nature/culture divide, body and mind have been regarded as inextricably linked. But there has been an explosion of technological possibilities which have prized oven this relationship loose, technologies that outstrip our emotional and ethical grasp. For instance, if reproductive technologies such as IVF raise fundamental ethical questions then asexual reproduction, cloning, reverberates even louder/
  35. 35. Are there physical attributes that people have that remains unchanged over time. The only plausible candidate here is DNA. Maybe we should link personal identity to DNA. This is problematic as it would imply that identical twins and clones are nondistinct persons. Marc Quinn has also explored the potential artistic uses of DNA, making a portrait of a sitter by extracting strands of DNA 2001 witnessed the creation of the DNA portraits, whose basis consists of DNA that has been replicated by means of standard cloning technology. A portrait is thus not a copy of the appearance of the person being portrayed, but is actually his genetic code.
  36. 36. Marc Quinn, Portrait of an artist as a young man, 2005, Painted bronze Perhaps then we shouldn’t focus on looking for a property or properties that remain unchanged over the life of the individual. Maybe then we should look to specify the extent to which someone can change and still be the same person
  37. 37. Gillian Wearing, ”Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say”, (1992-3)
  39. 39. Bruce Nauman. My Name As Though It Were Written on the Surface of the Moon (1968)
  40. 40. Bruce Nauman. Neon Templates of the Left Half of My Body Taken at Ten-Inch Intervals (1966)
  41. 41. Marc Quinn. Self, 2001 Blood (artist's), stainless steel, perspex and refrigeration equipment
  42. 42. Identity and Difference, edited by Kathryn Woodward in the Culture, Media and Identities Open University series, published by Sage (1997) 'This book is about identity because identity matters, both in terms of social and political concerns within the contemporary world and within academic discourses where identity has been seen as conceptually important in offering explanations of social and cultural changes... Identity can be seen as the interface between subjective positions and social and cultural situations... Identity gives us an idea of who we are and of how we relate to others and to the world in which we live. Identity marks the ways in which we are the same as others who share that position, and the ways in which we are different from those who do not.' (pp. 1-2).
  43. 43. Who I Am and What I Want, a film by David Shrigley & Chris Shepherd