Following the 'performative turn' in relational aesthetics and coming after the heyday of identity politics in art practice, the question of identity takes on a new relevance today inasmuch as artists continue to inquire about what is asked of a subject in advance of identification. Or, to put it more simply, we could say that identity is what comes before the idea of identification with the self or the other, i.e., identity is what structures our interactions, our expectations and our way of being in the world. Of course, in the contemporary context, we find artists are addressing the idea of identity at a time where subjects are tracked and marketed to through predictive analytics, consumer profiles and cultural stereotypes. And so, the focus of identity politics has become merged with the critique of political economy to the degree that both seek to address what escapes this vicious circle of market driven interpellation and socio-political codification.

In this sense we are always before and after the question of identity to the degree that identity is never a resolved set of qualities or a fixed system of signs. Identity is that which is always already in excess of a name or a 'norm'. The search for identity signifies a process that is simultaneously personal, cultural and political. It involves the notion of perpetual struggle, both through the process of subjectivation and individuation. It is around these two poles, which are never truly separate, that the philosopher Michel Foucault claimed that the quest for autonomy and equality would be sought as so many 'techniques of the self'. The unstable ground on which these terms are defined for each new generation is as varied as the projects put forth by different artists at different moments in history. Yet, quite invariably, the best challenges to hegemonic and normative strictures are often set against socio-economic, racial, sexual and gendered ideals with a capital I.

Perhaps the more radical question to advance however, is who has the power to define 'normativity' through the suppression of difference; who has an agenda to promote by way of pollsters and political action committees; and who has an image to defend by stereotyping and codifying the infinite multiplicity that is the human experience? And in the area of aesthetic discourse, what means allow us to re-open the question of identity toward new and unforeseen horizons, or at least beyond what is given to us by the culture-at-large. This kind of politic circumscribes the works on display "In Advance of Identity" by providing a direct confrontation with thinking otherness as existing somewhere between the imagistic, the imaginary and the wholly abstract. As such, this survey of works by 4 Arizona artists challenges many of the expectations provided for by an identifactory-industrial-complex that consolidates the distributed effects of socio-political entrainment as entertainment.

In such a light, we find the question of identity needs to be not only something we try to live in advance of, namely, in advance of a system of manufactured desires, but that we also need to advance in terms of rethinking aesthetic and cultural 'values'. Without new and timely perspectives about identity politics we are in danger of losing the very possibility of embracing the most diverse and varied forms of subjective and/or intersubjective relations. In other words, identity politics is always implicated in revolutionary praxis, or at the very least, in the question of human liberation. Toward this end, the spirit of contestation that fomented the cultural revolutions of the 60's continues to provide us with a means to rethink the evolution of enculturation as well as where it might be taking us in the age of globalization. This is where the question of identity is connected with the greater concerns of cultural production in terms of periodicity, which is to say, where it must be fully lived and experienced against the times we inhabit. And perhaps, this is the new politic of identity politics in the early twenty-first century, one that is clearly on view in the works included "In Advance of Identity".

Artists: Jilia Gonzalex, Daniel Funkhouser, Daniel Kanu, Clarita Lulic, and Lisa Von Hoffner.

Artist Bios: Link 


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