What we call our identity or conventional self is radically contingent, having origins that are often diffuse and distant. Its existence is like a map – it is relational, provisional, and deeply pragmatic. In many ways that are rooted in our social, cultural, political and physical specificity, it has grown from our sense of direction within our given environments. Even the locomotive musculoskeletal structure of the body is formed through resistances to the inert world around it, which it has gradually transformed into the eloquence of life. Geographies of the Self brings together various artistic explorations into the relation between the self and the map of one’s identity.
To “know thyself”, an ancient proverb attributed to sages, seems a proper precondition to any investigation of the world, but how is one to live by such an instruction? Artists always seek to unveil some reality of themselves, and to communicate to the outside that which occurs in the privacy of their own interiority. Sometimes it is spoken through a lexicon that interiorises the landscape, taking forms from flora and fauna to depict the moods and characteristics of the self. Other times through the grammar of the body, whose effortless knowledge keeps the self locked within, simultaneously invoking its presence and absence. Whichever way, in art there is always a beauty of distance that respects individual experience, and remains an autonomous act through which one can evaluate the conventional narratives from without.
Like a big loop, the conventional self exists only because we conceptualise it as such. Terrain cannot be said to truly belong to any map, and no less can the ultimate self, which is of the nature of space, belong to or be different for any individual, for it is unchangeably the greatest of all contexts. In not confusing the model with reality itself, be it social, political, cultural or scientific, the post-paradigmatic thinking afforded by the space of art can approach every provisional form of identity as a work of creative endeavour. After all, was not the third maxim carved at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, “certainty brings insanity”?
Agus Wijaya, Anney Bounpraseuth, Cheolyu Kim, Ruth Li, Samuel Quinteros