Over the past few years at art school I have become fascinated by culture and the diversity of personalities that surround me. It seems that everyone has a unique identity, often expressed visually through superficial things like brightly coloured hair, clothes, tattoos and makeup, but also through strong statements of opinion and belief. Coming from high school, where everyone more or less seemed to conform–at least at school, where there are many rules that make it hard to express yourself in the physical sense–it was an interesting change to experience people expressing themselves more freely. I started to wonder why it is so important to for people to have sense of individual identity. I wondered where do identities come from, if we choose them or if they are chosen for us.
I began to research scientific theory behind the construction of human identity. I also talked to friends and colleagues about how they idealised themselves, versus how they feel they are perceived. This is to say that the way we want to be perceived by others is not always the way that they actually see us; surface level identity traits are only so telling as to who we really are. People told me they strongly value having their own unique identity and the freedom to express themselves, and we are lucky to live in a society that generally allows this freedom.
As I delved deeper into my research, I started to understand the difference between adult vs. adolescent identities, particularly people of my sisters generation–Generation Z. It is clear that most adolescent people of her generation seek a very distinct and unique identity, but they are not always free to express it while they are expected to conform to their parent’s rules and school regulations.
I was inspired to centre my project on the idea of adolescent identity by my sister who is seventeen. Watching her and her friends grow up and try to create different identities for themselves, reminded me of the struggle of finding your identity and the awkward, difficult and often-terrifying journey to adulthood.
Last year my sister got a tattoo of a ‘64.’ It is the age she believes she will die, which allows her only forty-seven years from now to find her ‘true’ identity.