An identity, malleable in essence, transforms continually throughout a person’s life. More than a singular entity, it takes shape into context through the fabric of time. Rather than a part of human nature, it is a social construction built under the scrutiny of others. Our acknowledgment of an identity deepens as it forms beneath pressing gazes. As we explore its complexity in our minds, we step into a framework already set out in the world.
Notions of identity are sometimes put into labels– as temporary, passive, and fickle terms. How should we rise to misplaced attributions and reclaim the power of discourse? In the wake of sexual revolution and feminism since the 1950s, topics centering on traditional standards, such as the conventional sense of masculinity and femininity, as well as gender roles in the household and public sphere, have changed and received growing attention as awareness of social expectations and media is raised.
Regardless of family, the workplace, or society, the correlation between different identities continues to shift in ever-changing times. With the popularization of civic engagement, while some dated social constraints have been loosened, hollow labels and misguided discrimination emerge between gaps of inequality. It was never likely for a person’s identity and their ties with others to be speculated separately. An identity marks one’s place in society, while the relationships people form with one another determine each of their unique dispositions. Identity politics discernibly influence how we live our lives.
Centered on the topic of identity and the complexity of human relationships, the books featuring in SEEN / UNSEEN are based on the themes — self-discovery, family ties, and social connections.
Works such as Cindy Sherman's theatrical interpretation of the plurality of selves and Francesca Woodman's experiments with female body imagery are made in the attempt of self-discovery. Through self-portraits and staged photography, they question the credibility of identity between ideal and authentic selves.
On exploration of relationships between family, friends, and partners, selected works include Doug Dubois' records on the transformations from childhood to adolescence and Hajime Kimura's reflection on fragmented memories of his father. While Pixy Liao investigates the relationship with her partner, Momo Okabe and Lina Scheynius document their lovers and close friends through the diaristic lens. Collectively they meditate on their own identities in association with different forms of intimacy.
At last, we expand the scope of observation into history. My Birth, Until Death Do Us Part, and On Abortion are archives of anonymous images that challenge stereotypical role models and cultural norms, revealing multiple facets of the identities.
When we look at others around us, what we perceive is often only part of the picture. Within books presented in SEEN / UNSEEN, portrayals via text and images lead us to reexamine multifaceted identities and a gender evolution that is taking place in our shared human experience. As time goes on, interpersonal relationships continue to flourish on new social grounds. The fractions of imagery on the show guide us to find hidden structures within our own social identities. The unseen often exists within what we see, and hints of familiarity are ever-present.