Personal Identity is often intended as something certain and defined that we can seek in ourselves or elsewhere; like something to achieve in order to stop its constant changing.
The EGO manifest itself in its externalization, the ES. From the Freudian perspective the EGO represents an individual essence that molds when it reach the external world and becomes the ES. It happens in a dynamic relationship of mutual influence between what we subconsciously are and what we become when we meet the otherness, which is the opposite of the identity.
How can someone who has the power to shape places and cultures influence the personal identity? What does really change us? What is more valuable? Would we have been the same in a different environment? Everything we make contact with it affects, contaminates and defines us. Is our Ego the true essence of our aspiration, or is it just a starting point designed to lessen and get lost in what surrounds us?
To introduce a reflection about the concept of personal identity I think it’s interesting to understand how it develops during the individual growth, from child to adult.
A child is not capable to perceive nothing but himself and in anthropology this phase is defined as ego-centered. The newborn cannot sense the world around him; his basic needs and his survival instinct are the only things he knows and define him.
We find a turning point when he starts relationships between people; this exchange of informations helps the individual to build his identity and the characteristics that will define him for the rest of his existence.
From this first analysis it is clear how the definition of personal identity it’s not just a fact of self-determination, but the result we have from the blending of our instinct and its expression related to the place in which we grow and the cultural inspirations we receive during our lives.
Stefan Gunnesch, Counting the hour we wait (#3), 2019.
The piece on cover and the images illustrating the article are from the German artist Stefan Gunnesh and they can be an extra inspiration for this analysis.
Stefan Gunnesch , Zeit Geist (#1), 2019.
Those unrecognizable faces, torn apart and recomposed, are still fascinating and intriguing. They reinvent the human figure pointing out how nothing is eternal and everything is obsolete in the exact moment it is accomplished. The artist freezes the evanescent moment in a snapshot and makes it fade in fragments of other images and stacked layers. The paint and the clippings take possess of the starting image creating something new and unexpected, defining a new identity of the subject, an “hidden identity” which is also the title of his exhibition.
Stefan Gunnesch, Until Last Word is Lost, 2019.
Conceptually, I feel a connection with Francis Bacon’s last paintings. Especially his self-portraits, where his face loses his harmony fading into brushstrokes, as a soul escapes from the body ripping his outline balanced in cubism and futurism.
Francis Bacon, Self portrait, 1971.
In Gunnesh’s works this balance is not about the tragedy of a fleeing soul, but it gives a sculptural sense to his composition between essence and alterity.
The fragments of the initial imagine become one with the extra parts and no one overcomes the other, in an interactive dynamism locked in the moment.
Those pieces of art give a concrete image of the moment when a flawless personality is crushed in a violent impact with the external world.
Stefan Gunnesch, The shedding (#1), 2020.
My last point on this analysis about the personal identity is about what effectively create this contamination.
Cultural impulses were once limited in an area and there was no way to know what there was outside, and this limit was something impossible to break through.
The understanding of diversity it’s a way to prove ourselves and think about our identity, trying to widen our vision in every space and time. Every culture can effect masses and generations, leading them into a predetermined evolutionary system.
Is our entire way to think and behave made in order to develop in a certain way?
We live in a world overloaded with informations, where the self-determination process seems to be lost; it is hard to filter every input without falling in subconscious conditionings. But It’s also the historic period where we have infinite ways to
create our personal identity choosing to keep informed, share our thoughts, find a momentary balance and keep looking for it.
Stefan Gunnesch, Silence, 2020.
Translated into English by Morgana Nichetti.
Cover: Stefan Gunnesch, Keeping you occupied from my heart (#1), 2019.
– S. Freud, L’io e l’es: e altri scritti, Bollati Boringhieri, Torino, 1986.