Identity as Openness

Andrews, Jorella G.. 2021. 'Identity as Openness'. In: Ways of Seeing 2021: Identities in Art and Architecture. National Gallery, London, United Kingdom 20 November 2021. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

This talk was crafted from my reflections on four key images or image clusters. It was from these reflections that the idea of calling the talk “Identity as Openness” emerged. The images were:

Neil Kenlock, 'Keep Britain White'graffiti, Balham, 1972, printed 2010, photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 384 × 253 mm. Tate;

Various images and installations shots relating to Option Dzikamai Nyahunzvi 2021 exhibition Kwatinobva Kunoyera (Sacred Origins), Unit London, 9 Nov-4 Dec 2021;

The National Gallery's Saint Catherine of Alexandria, by Raphael, ca. 1507, oil on poplar, 72.2 x 55.7 cm;

Photographs of African Head-Carrying: Jen Price, African Head-Carrying, n.d., colour photograph; R: Eric Lafforgue, Mwila Girl Carrying A Crate Of Ngola Beer On Her Head, Chibia Area, Angola, n.d., colour photograph.

Drawing on these works and their very different historical and cultural contexts, I opened up perspectives that are alternative to the ‘identity politics’ approaches that are dominant within contemporary debate, and which are organised around collective categories linked with gender, sexuality, race or ethnicity, ability and disability, and so on.

This wasn’t to diminish those approaches. Rather, it was about keeping in play the many other ways in which we might think about our relationships with ourselves and others, with art and imagery from diverse cultures and historical periods playing a key role in terms of keeping us open-minded.

I was particularly interested in shifting focus away from a concern with the collective identifications just referenced and to think instead about identity as having to do with the quality of our interactions with others: the degree to which our sense of identity motivates us to variously erect or dismantle cultural barriers', for instance, or the degree to which it is fueled by kindness, courage, acceptance and poise (the latter being an important aspect of identity formation within African head-carrying cultures, such as the Anlo-Ewe speaking people in southeastern Ghana). Let's not just think about how we wish to self-identity, but why.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Lecture)

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


20 November 2021Published

Event Location:

National Gallery, London, United Kingdom

Date range:

20 November 2021

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Date Deposited:

09 Dec 2021 17:14

Last Modified:

09 Dec 2021 17:14


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