nothing to be scared of": True Identity can't truly be gazed
at, can it?
is perceived is never exactly the same as what is there in the
material sense, but we are still obsessed by gazing, making assumptions
about what we see and how people choose to present themselves.
It is true that visualising class, race, gender and sexual distinction
is difficult without using pre-established stereotypes. However,
in this new century, following from a wave of androgynous fashion
and evident gender ambiguity or change (especially in the Western
hemisphere), is it not fair to suggest that the gaze has become
more of a curious one? Everyday whilst passing people in the
street, we mentally note, if but ephemerally, who they are under
their physical appearance or even if this appearance is, in reality
their identity at all. After all what is identity and how to
we come to acquire individuality?
is a social creation, and our individual bodies and body parts
are loaded with cultural symbolism: public and private, positive
and negative, political and economic, sexual and moral and often
controversial. One controversy could be who owns the body? Who
can determine its boundaries, its meanings and its values?
live in a world where our body's age, gender, shape, dress and
colour are determinants of our lives and supposed clues of our
social identities. It also appears that our chances in life are
measured by these unique attributes. Beauty and Ugliness, height
and weight, physical handicaps (if any), are prime determinants
of the self which effect social responses to the self. Why is
it that how one seems to appear is what one thinks he/she is
getting? Aristotle said that sight is "the noblest sense
mirror of the soul, the I". Is what we see a reflection
of what we know - or don't know? Is how we see a reflection of
our tolerance or intolerance? Can the mirror of our soul gaze
at another without employing pre-established stereotypes?
In my present art practice I'm interested in posing questions,
not immediate answers about visual identity. I use photography,
video and sculpture to challenge the viewer's initial assumptions
(usually negative ones), about what they see. After all, we can't
walk around with our eyes wide shut. That would be truly boring,
erase all elements of mystery and the unknown. Some questions
will never be answered, just as common stereotypes may not conform
to a viewer's pre-established assumption. We can only wonder
about whom one really is, on the bus, tube, in the supermarket
unless we thoroughly interview every single person we walk past,
every single second of our lives. Nevertheless, we can't deny
that we are all inquisitive voyeurs to some extent, myself very
much included, especially in an age of growing ambiguity and
multiculturalism. The transient glance at the strangest stranger
can be a most magnificent and impressive manifestation - or not
depending of the viewer's reliance on traditional stereotyping.
Human expression as I see it, is totally ambiguous because a
certain look to one person may be interpreted by another in a
totally opposite way.
and human expression means nothing, a non-indication of the entire
self. It is provisional just like a full stop. The next sentence
will take nearly all of it back. The voice of self expression
may say "I need to say something, just now" It is not
forever, not universally true. It is not guaranteed or sealed
with a badge of approval. It is now, only here and now. This
is what I mean; and for this particular moment, this is who I
am. Full stops don't really exist and nor does my image of self
identity. We gaze at floating signs and human gestures which
are continuously subject to change. What we hold dear in this
moment, may soon be rejected and forgotten in the next. Images
are constantly changing, ambiguous and misunderstood. Similarly,
like existence, the gestural gaze doesn't last forever and the
"mirror of the soul" isn't always so highly polished!