MODULE 4: INFORMING CONTEXTS. WEEK 9.
I want to explore a little further some of my thematic research that I touched on in this post, especially where it bisects with things I recognise in myself and some of my collaborators, and which might be aspects that I can use photographically.
My whole impetus with my project work is the exploration of the sensations of hybridity and otherness that result from being mixed heritage or third-culture. And I frame this in the context of biomythography: the weaving together of myth, history, and biography in a form that represents the multifaceted ways we perceive the world. This brings in my own experience of growing up mixed-heritage as well as the experiences of others who have similar backgrounds.
My research has included interviews with my collaborators and extensive reading around the issue, and it’s clear that there are common psychological experiences of those who have cross-cultural upbringings especially such things as adaptability, grief, loss, paradoxes, and disorientation. Indeed, people who have these life experiences ‘develop common characteristics that differ in various ways or degrees from characteristics of those who are basically born in and live their entire childhoods in one place’ (Pollock, Van Reken, Pollock, 1999. p.4). The authors also propose that cross-culture people are ‘microcosms’ of globalisation and that living and growing up in this way will be ‘the rule rather than the exception in the future’ (Pollock, Van Reken, Pollock, 1999, p. 6).
It’s these types of experience that are the basis for my photographic explorations.
Also really interesting in terms of my project development are some of the definitions used for common identity issues third-culture kids and cross-culture people can identify with. I’m slightly paraphrasing the authors of Third Culture Kids here, but as follows:
- Chameleons – those who try to find a “same as” identity. They seek to conform externally through clothes, language, attitudes to whatever environment they are.
- Screamers – those who try to find a “different from” identity. They let other people know they are not like them and don’t plan to be.
- Wallflowers – those who try to find a “nonidentity”. They sit on the sidelines to learn local cultural rules.
- Adapters – those who just “are”. These people tend to feel comfortable in their own skin and don’t have the need to over-conform or super-rebel.
So, this is all information to help me deepen my understanding and responses to what I’m learning. My decision to take the stance of creating work that sits between the real and the fictive seems completely apt; the fact that the work can have a strong dialogue with the subject matter through this gives me a great deal of hope for expressing something important and interesting with the project.
Socially, it is also a time in which notions of the ‘other’ are being challenged for all sorts of regressive reasons. Immigration, cross-cultural people and relationships, genetic heritage etc. are coming under fire from corners of the world that seem to have little or no understanding of the positives of these things and the commonality we all share with them. These life experiences are profoundly important to the way we see ourselves as a human race and how we develop culturally. For people of mixed or hybrid backgrounds it is frequently about ‘digging around in history until you get confirmation that you were there, whilst creating your own for the present and the future’ as the writer Reni Eddo-Lodge states in her essay Forming Blackness Through A Screen (Shukla (Ed), 2016. p.83). Though she is talking directly about her black experience, I believe her description holds for a wider cross-cultural experience too.
This digging around in history for the purposes of understanding identity (mine and others) has led me to define certain tropes within my work – for example food, forms of displacement, and even a surreality that seems pertinent. These provide portals of meaning, are signified elements (referring to Barthes), that are becoming part of the project language.
Alongside these tropes, I think the visual exploration of the identities (chameleon etc) listed above could be very interesting and are things worth taking further.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
Pollock, D; Pollock, M; Reken, R van. (Ed). 1999. Third Culture Kids. 3rd edn. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
Shukla, N (Ed). 2016. The Good Immigrant. London: Unbound.