Mnemosine Project: identity

All my pictures originated from an international project, Mnemosine, which invited all participants to create works on specific themes, such as identity, origins and the fight against prejudice. My starting point for this project were origins and identity.
I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone build his identity depending on economic, political, social and cultural circumstances and subjective life experiences.
The country of origin and other environmental factors not always define our personality, but nowadays, although internet and other media give the possibility to quickly access to an universal knowledge, a lot of people are still subject to several prejudices because of their personal data. Than I thought “Which official documents let us travel and certify a person’s identity at the same time? The answer was “Identity card and passport”. I decided to interview some elderly people, depending on their life experiences and their different origins. I asked them about their lives and I created a story putting together all the different pieces of information.
The result of the interviews surprised me, because the answer to my question, “do you have an unfulfilled dream?”, was often positive; the majority of people said they have had a satisfying life although war and poverty. Anyway, I’ve exhibited these pictures because I wanted to show interviewees’ faces, their identity documents and stories. I won’t specify which are the true stories, because we cannot only identify a person from his “biological characteristics” and biographical data.
Each person is also made of dreams, hopes and life experiences.
Documents often give us mispresented and stereotypical information about people.
I think it’s really unfair to consider only a person’s origin and background when describing his personality. We cannot judge a person because of his origin and social class, we are all people, characterized by unique features and that’s most important thing.
Researching identity. Mine is not a work of art, but a research of a specific concept, which is usually trivially debated and hard to define.
Identity is a complex concept, because it includes heterogeneous aspects and several meanings; as a big umbrella it holds together and connects different elements.
We cannot exactly define what identity is, maybe only the dictionary can do it, but in a limited way.
Therefore, my research began from the problem of defining both individual and collective identity.
Nowadays our identity cannot be steady as many years ago. All the certainties have fallen down and everything is changed from a quite steady world to a precarious one, so our identity can change in a few minutes too. Consequently defining our identity is more complex today: our life experiences continuously change because of an increasingly social dynamism, influencing both our self-awareness and the “other-awarness”.
Considering the complex matter of identity and what different people may have in common, I thought the only feature that characterises all of us is the species: we are humans.
For the majority of people identity is usually a matter of gender, a concept which has been increasingly disputed in recent years because of a cultural revolution, race, religion, ethnicity and skin colour.
Actually these deep-seated prejudices mask something else: people’s desire of defence, personal advantage and offense.
I continued thinking about this matter, but it wasn’t clear to me why people are not able to accept others and recognise that we are all humans. So I asked my interviewees to explain their identities to an imaginary alien, while looking at themselves in the mirror. None of them has described himself as an human, but as a boy, a girl etc…but an alien might not know who is an human! I’ve continued with my questions, then I tried to photograph interviewees’ souls, letting them choice the picture they preferred.
I believe people can go beyond stereotypes, maybe it will take some time, maybe it’s an utopia, but if we begin to consider others as humans and not as black or white, woman or man, we can manage to do it.
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