Identity and Values Workshop

Today I participated in a workshop organised by one of our tutors. It was to do with identity, something that I am currently concerned with in my art.

It began by our tutor asking our a series of questions. We were asked to write these down on paper in our notebooks. Some of these were: where we were born, our full names, names of our parents, where we would say we are from, what is a place we feel safe, what are our fears, our first memories.. I enjoyed delving deep, listening and writing with my eyes closed, particularly to the questions I rarely ask myself.

After this exercise we were asked to select four things out of all of this that stood out to us. I chose an inspiration: Simey my brother; my first memory: on a plane flying to disney world aged 5; a place I feel safe: in the mountains of the Cevennes; and lastly a heartbreak.

We were asked to print off a photo for each of these four things that represented them in some way, no bigger than A5. Then we were invited to trace over the images in permanent pen with acetate. Once we did this we were told to make a box using thin cardboard, cutting a large hole so that two sides were kept open. The purpose was to place the four sheets of acetate inside the box, one in front of the other so you can look through all see these different visuals merge. Above are the four I selected. When I look at it now, there are many parts that I like, perhaps mostly as it has a lot of symbolic meaning to me; but at the same time I feel I could have composed the piece better so that my message be clearer.

I wonder how I would interpret the work as an outsider. It seems to me to suggest that I am wearing a veil, am god like and somehow affected/displaced by war. It is very interesting indeed to read into this, perhaps someone with a background in art therapy/psychology could analyse the piece? As Sophie Calle did in her ‘Lettera d’Amore’, where she asked all different people from different professions, occupations to analyse every aspect of a breakup letter from her boyfriend at the time. If I were to analyse it deeper, I’d say that I see myself as a god from the way I place myself high in the sky, gazing down over the land at a mere mortal with serenity and wisdom. However, at the same time, my head is divided, pulled apart in opposite directions through travel. This could hint that I always want to go back to where I’ve been. That I am never settled in one place and always thinking about where to go next. Nevertheless, in my heart I look down at the seas, mountains and rivers and I know the beauty and envy those who can just stay where they are and admire it.

Although, upon reflection I feel I have taken a lot from the workshop I struggled to enjoy it, or make sense of it at the time. Frustration and anger are two emotions that keep coming up when I’m brainstorming/working in the studio lately. Perhaps it is because the environment is quite solitary. I am mostly there alone; and surely because I am going deep into parts of me that are meaningful and that I care about. I am also looking for answers and right now I feel I just have mostly questions, questions, questions. Perhaps the most important thing I have learnt from today is the constructiveness of just creating. Taking time to stop thinking and planning and instead get out of my head and into my hands.

If I were to offer this workshop I would take away the framework of a cardboard box as it feels limiting and constricting. I do see the help in having a framework to work within, but would like to be more experimental, perhaps collaborative, expressive, abstract. In addition, I felt that some of the questions we were asked were very personal and raised some very deep and painful memories which I was left to deal with alone. There didn’t seem to be a space to talk about them, nor how to hold or nurture them. I think that this workshop has to be done with care and support no matter what the audience.


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