Crafting an Artistic ‘Self’


The BA studio I designed and taught at The Cass during the 2012-13 academic year explored identity in art practice, investigating strategies for representing the self in art including: creating alter egos/personae, telling personal truths, inventing histories and recording everyday activities.

The concept of identity as a dynamic relationship between self and society has taken precedence over the modernist notion of self-expression since the 1960s.

With a critical eye developed through the lenses of feminism, the sexual revolution, post-colonialism and queer theory, artists now examine identity as a socially constructed representation of self. Often contemporary art not only describes this condition, but also tries to formulate strategies to break out of confining representations.

In this studio students will investigate the role identity plays in their work, perhaps responding to confining social ‘labels’ and/or engaging with an open-ended questioning or de-limiting of the self through a critical engagement with culture and autobiography. Students will also apply analytical tools from cultural studies, sociology, philosophy and psychology to understand and negotiate new representations of the self.

Art themes and concepts taught:

  • self-portraiture/alter egos
  • autobiography and narrative
  • body art
  • identity politics
  • socially-engaged practice
  • theories of the self/identity

In this studio, art students working in any media will demonstrate their ability to:

  • create and analyse a series of self-initiated, identity-based works
  • recognise and understand critical/theoretical frameworks of identity construction
  • use these frameworks to interpret their own and others’ work orally and in writing