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22 March 2020 (Auckland)

- Who am I? Who are you ? Who are we? Who are they? 


- “ A successful Maori artist”  “A drunk officer”  “Casanova” “An immigrant priest” “the daughter of my mother”  “A strange looking boy”  “a proud LGBT-member”  “a Samoan God” 


Although everyone, in particular yourself, the media and political parties , seem to know, proudly or defensively, how to use the word, it proves quite difficult to give an adequate summary that captures the range of its present meanings.  Apart from the socio-economically driven division of  society in three classes, people in the 14th century, people were not preoccupied with demarcating their personal or social (group-oriented) identity.  You were born as someone and in most cases died as no one.  In addition, religion and identity were often mentioned in the same breath. 


The emergence of identity was top-down, mainly due to the emergence of nation-states.  People acquired a certain chauvinism and derived their identity from a “clearly” defined group. With the ideas associated with the enlightenment at the end of the 18th century, individualism came to the fore.  In that way identity as a notion is historically fairly recent. 


Unfortunately, defining identity both visually or as a concept is like a molotov-cocktail.  In general we can say that it is a set of (physical) attributes such as bodily anomalies, ethnicity and gender, that someone is born with. However due to our nature and the fast-changing conditions of society, many aspects such as beliefs, desires and moral commitments that a person thinks distinguish her/him in socially relevant ways change constantly throughout life.  So an individual’s identity consists of multiple, intersecting factors, including gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality. In fact, I would prefer to use the plural word “identities,” emphasizing that the word is fluid. Stronger, we will never completely understand how we and they are.

Luckily artists help us understand where we come from while confronting us with who we are as individuals, as a society and as a nation. So art can help us come to terms with biological peculiarities and understand ourselves and how we relate to others. 

The exhibition, held on-demand (private viewing) for a day throughout Auckland, and the artworks part of the collection offer an opportunity to pursue a moment of profound self-reflection and relativization. How do I change and why do I change? Great art conceptualizes identities as both personal and social and visually exemplifies the beauty of differentiation. The chosen artists’ artworks express, explore and question different aspects of their personal identity, their socially-constructed identity and our universal human identity. 

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