top of page
  • Ihor Biloushchenko

Who am I? Between transformation and stagnation.

Is individual identity even possible?

Identity is a fundamental question of the human experience that has been explored by various theories in philosophy and psychology, yet it remains one of the most relevant throughout history. Psychoanalytic theories, like those of Sigmund Freud, see identity as a product of internal conflicts, while social identity theory, developed by Henri Tajfel and John Turner, posits that identity is largely influenced by social groups. Cognitive developmental theory, popularized by Jean Piaget, suggests that identity results from an individual's cognitive development, and postmodernist theory, influenced by Michel Foucault, views identity as a constantly changing construct shaped by social and cultural contexts.

These theories suggest that personal experience and cultural context reflect and shape individual and collective identities. But, is personal identity even possible in a world where we are in constant flux?

Cultural context

Despite the many different perspectives on identity, one thing is clear: personal experience and cultural context play a significant role in shaping our individual and collective identities. However too much focus on the group identity can lead to dangerous ideas such as chauvinism or nationalism, and it can limit the freedom of individuals who do not fit within the prescribed niche.

The realm of art offers a unique platform for exploring identity. Some individual artists have challenged our understanding of who we are and how we fit into the world around us. For example, Kara Walker and Kerry James Marshall used a narrative approach in their art to explore the historical and social constructs that shape black identity in America. Kehinde Wiley's large-scale portraits challenged traditional Western notions of power and privilege by depicting contemporary black figures in the grandiose style of European portraiture. Similarly, Zanele Muholi's photographs explored the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality in South Africa, while Shirin Neshat's video installations examined the experience of Iranian women living in exile. These artists offer a unique perspective on the complex nature of identity and the various factors that shape it.

At the same time, Cindy Sherman explored her individual experiences and perceptions of gender and identity in contemporary culture through self-portraits, which challenged traditional notions of femininity and the male gaze in art.

The Paradox of Identity

As we continue to shift between group to more individual identities, there is the danger of ending up in a cycle of woke culture where we come back to group identity that believes they are superior to others. Can we ever be free without limiting the freedom of others at the same time? This paradoxical question reflects the human condition and our constant struggle to reconcile individual and collective identities.

Art and culture play a crucial role in reflecting and shaping our identities, but we must be mindful of the potential pitfalls of group identity and the importance of balancing individual and collective identities. As much as art can unite and transform, it can also divide and stagnate. The question of identity may never have a fixed answer, that is the melancholy of the human experience - a never-ending process of discovery and rediscovery. Let us hope that our journey from individual to group identity and back again leads us in spirals to new heights, rather than in circles that bring us back to where we started.

#art #identity #culture #socialissues #humanity #criticalthinking #artandhumanity #artdiscussion



  1. Erikson, E. H. (1968). Identity: Youth and crisis. W.W. Norton & Company.

  2. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. The social psychology of intergroup relations, 33-47.

  3. Piaget, J. (1977). The role of action in the development of thinking. Harvard University Press.

  4. Foucault, M. (1984). What is enlightenment? In P. Rabinow (Ed.), The Foucault Reader (pp. 32-50). Pantheon Books.

  5. Walker, K. (2017). Kara Walker: Sikkema Jenkins & Co. is Compelled to present The most Astounding and Important Painting show of the fall Art Show viewing season!

  6. Wiley, K. (2015). Kehinde Wiley: A new republic. Brooklyn Museum in association with the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and the Toledo Museum of Art.

  7. Sherman, C. (1990). Cindy Sherman: Untitled film stills. Rizzoli.

More questions to think about:

What role does art play in shaping our individual and collective identity? Share your thoughts below 👇 🎨

#art #artidentity #identity #humanity #artdiscussion #artandhumanity

Who or what shaped your sense of self, your identity? Share your story below 👇 🎨

#whoAmI #art #artidentity #identity #humanity #artdiscussion #artandhumanity

Can art challenge your understanding of yourself? How?👇 

#whoAmI #art #artidentity #identity #humanity #artdiscussion #artandhumanity

125 views5 comments
bottom of page