To live is to construct an identity bit by bit .
– unknown –
What is a true identity? What is a projected identity? Are these polarities of one another or are they intertwined? Does a fixed identity – if it exists at all – expand beyond itself or is it a restricting boundary? These are ideas that the South African artist Barend de Wet have often challenged and which are highlighted in his current exhibition Projected Identities showing at SMAC Gallery (Cape Town).
Identity is something that I have explored myself. The video piece I am an African (2008) exhibited at Dak’art 2008, investigates the lived reality of being white and African. Of particular interest to me in Projected Identities is de Wet’s exploration of how others perceive the self which he explores through the role of dress.
My heightened awareness of the construct of identity is directly linked to what I’m currently reading. Exploring the relations between societal constructs and brand identity in Brand Management is an entirely new field to me. Although struggling somewhat through the marketing approaches and linguistics, I am quite fascinated by the idea that ‘brand is a construct formed by society.’ In a way this resonates with what de Wet attempts to explore in Projected Identities. Here, however, the viewer is asked to deconstruct the societal construct of identity.
As I understand it, brand identity relates to the way the brand sees itself and brand image is the way the brand wishes to be seen. Applying that to what it means to be an artist the questions then become: What is my own art identity (brand identity), and, how would I want my art identity to be seen (brand image)?
Agreeing with the idea that identity is constructed bit by bit through the lived experience of life itself, branding experts believe that this organic approach cannot be enough to stand out in the global reality of cluttered, competitive noise. Your (brand) identity as an artist needs to offer something of value to be noticed above all the din. According to Klopper & North:
The value of a brand … is defined by who its stakeholders are and by what they need and want. A brand’s identity is in essence defined by the value it adds to people’s lives.
We are back to the viewer here. It resonates with de Wet ‘s approach to the assigned role of the spectator, viewer or stakeholder in the relationship of what is being perceived.
Obliquely linking to my previous blog purpose I need to ask myself what value my art is adding to those who see / experience it?