Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Buzz Word: Identity

Identity was all the rage in the western world about ten years ago. Words like “multicultural” and “raceclassandgender” harnessed explorations into social self. It then became evident that these categories were too narrow, and, consequently, identity as a whole turned into a somewhat passé subject.

In Friday’s review of the exhibition "Infinite Island" at the Brooklyn Museum, Holland Cotter reestablishes the relevance of identity, and in doing so, reminds us that the art world extends way beyond the Chelsea boy’s club.

What had me going were the following comments:

“How such art can be persuasively presented is, of course, the question. The thematic categories Mr. Mosaka applies to the show — religion, politics, memory, popular culture — have been used in countless shows. They are clichés by now, perceptual straitjackets rather than enlightening guides. As conceptual models, they require rethinking, as does the model some of the art follows.”

The question, of course, applies not only to curators, but to artists. How can artists address identity in all its complexity?

Cotter suggests:
“The show’s best work is the most abstract, much of it performance-based.”

Right on, Holland.

If an artist is going to talk about social self, she needs to present overlap, contradiction, tension, and coexistence. That might look abstract. And performance is a great way to tap into the impermanence of it all.

How to do this is another post unto itself.

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