IN ADVANCE OF IDENTITY
Following the 'performative turn' in relational aesthetics and coming after the heyday of identity politics in art practice, the question of identity takes on a new relevance today inasmuch as artists continue to inquire about what is asked of a subject in advance of identification. Or, to put it more simply, we could say that identity is what comes before the idea of identification with the self or the other, i.e., identity is what structures our interactions, our expectations and our way of being in the world. Of course, in the contemporary context, we find artists are addressing the idea of identity at a time where subjects are tracked and marketed to through predictive analytics, consumer profiles and cultural stereotypes. And so, the focus of identity politics has become merged with the critique of political economy to the degree that both seek to address what escapes this vicious circle of market driven interpellation and socio-political codification.
In this sense we are always before and after the question of identity to the degree that identity is never a resolved set of qualities or a fixed system of signs. Identity is that which is always already in excess of a name or a 'norm'. The search for identity signifies a process that is simultaneously personal, cultural and political. It involves the notion of perpetual struggle, both through the process of subjectivation and individuation. It is around these two poles, which are never truly separate, that the philosopher Michel Foucault claimed that the quest for autonomy and equality would be sought as so many 'techniques of the self'. The unstable ground on which these terms are defined for each new generation is as varied as the projects put forth by different artists at different moments in history. Yet, quite invariably, the best challenges to hegemonic and normative strictures are often set against socio-economic, racial, sexual and gendered ideals with a capital I.
Perhaps the more radical question to advance however, is who has the power to define 'normativity' through the suppression of difference; who has an agenda to promote by way of pollsters and political action committees; and who has an image to defend by stereotyping and codifying the infinite multiplicity that is the human experience? And in the area of aesthetic discourse, what means allow us to re-open the question of identity toward new and unforeseen horizons, or at least beyond what is given to us by the culture-at-large. This kind of politic circumscribes the works on display "In Advance of Identity" by providing a direct confrontation with thinking otherness as existing somewhere between the imagistic, the imaginary and the wholly abstract. As such, this survey of works by 4 Arizona artists challenges many of the expectations provided for by an identifactory-industrial-complex that consolidates the distributed effects of socio-political entrainment as entertainment.
In such a light, we find the question of identity needs to be not only something we try to live in advance of, namely, in advance of a system of manufactured desires, but that we also need to advance in terms of rethinking aesthetic and cultural 'values'. Without new and timely perspectives about identity politics we are in danger of losing the very possibility of embracing the most diverse and varied forms of subjective and/or intersubjective relations. In other words, identity politics is always implicated in revolutionary praxis, or at the very least, in the question of human liberation. Toward this end, the spirit of contestation that fomented the cultural revolutions of the 60's continues to provide us with a means to rethink the evolution of enculturation as well as where it might be taking us in the age of globalization. This is where the question of identity is connected with the greater concerns of cultural production in terms of periodicity, which is to say, where it must be fully lived and experienced against the times we inhabit. And perhaps, this is the new politic of identity politics in the early twenty-first century, one that is clearly on view in the works included "In Advance of Identity".
Artists: Jilia Gonzalex, Daniel Funkhouser, Daniel Kanu, Clarita Lulic, and Lisa Von Hoffner.
The art practice of Julia Gonzalez deals with the contradictions between living in a society of mass produced images and the plurality of forms that nature produces. The CMYK series in this exhibit mixes motifs from mechanical reproduction with photographs of the artist's portrait in order to produce a picture of the inner tension between marketed persona's and personal preferences. In this way, we can see how the contrast between optical reproduction techniques and the haptic qualities of the body work to focus the viewer's attention on the precarious space of personal freedom and the possibility of autonomy in contemporary culture today.
Bio: Julia Gonzalez is a recently earned her Associates from Chandler-Gilbert Community College and her B.F.A in printmaking and photography from ASU. She has exhibited in Arizona at Night Gallery, Gallery 100 and has been part of several juried exhibitions. She works with the Arizona State Photographers Association and currently resides in Arizona.
The works of Daniel Funkhouser consist of mind-bending and gender-bending explorations of media that present us with so many allegories of the self. Funkhouser's pieces operate as a form of duplicitous documentary evidence about the precarious position of identity and its attending presuppositions. Equal parts mythos, persona, and personal inclination, Funkhouser's playful portraits invite us in with a subtle surrealism and chromatic opulence that allows the viewer to negotiate these extremes of expression as a reflection of their own conflicting interpretative registers.
Bio: Daniel Funkhouser has a B.F.A. from Arizona State University and completed his thesis work at Barrett Honors College. He has exhibited widely, and was a member of the Eye Lounge art collective and the performance art group Treasure Mammal. He was awarded "Best Selfie" by the New Times and Art Scene Queen in 2015.
The works of Daniel Kanu use multiple mediums to engage the viewer in thinking about issues of race, identity, politics and socio-economic stereotypes. By mixing visual tropes from the mass media with art historical references Kanu's work challenges the viewer to think about the social history of art and cultural production. Moving between printmaking, assemblage and collages techniques Kanu's pieces speak about the patchwork quality of subjectivity and the impossibility of reducing human experience to a set of cultural 'norms'.
Bio: Daniel Kanu has won several art competitions including the 2007 Congressional Art Competition. He Has exhibited at the Andy Warhol Museum, the Desoto Art League, and the Urban League of Greater Dallas where he was awarded best in show. He also took 1st place in National Society of Arts and Letters, Greater Arizona Chapter Printmaking Competition. Kanua is a graduate of The University of Texas at Tyler, where he received his B.F.A. and a recent graduate of Arizona State University where he received his M.F.A. in printmaking.
Clarita Lulic's work explores the dialectic tension of inter-subjective relations. Through photographs and sculptures Lulic plays with the language of happenstance and conflict by emphasizing the ways in which we inhabit domestic and gendered roles. Her most recent body of work takes an allegorical turn by presenting us with material propositions that act as a stand in for those unspoken conflicts that structure the routines of cohabitation and the expectations that accompany sexual difference.
Bio: Clarita Lulic has exhibited in London, Sao Paulo, Kyoto, and Arizona. She was the recipient of a US-UK Fullbright Postgraduate award scholarship as well as winning an individual grant from the Arts Council of England, a North East Photography Network Development Bursary and most recently, a completion grant from the Foundation for Art Resources. She was the winner of the Emerging Photographers award in 2011 from Magenta Flash Forward and won the National Media Museum Photography Award in 2010. Lulic has a B.A. from the University of Northumbira and just completed her M.F.A. from the University of Arizona.
Lisa Von Hoffner
The works of Lisa Von Hoffner are a meditation on the passive subject of consumer desire and the active gaze of the phallocentric imaginary. Part illustrative titillation, part geometric configuration, Von Hoffner’s women signal the idea of red light district aesthetics coming to the world of fine art. Her delicately rendered figures serve to remind us that the history of pictorial pleasures in the West represent a long series of naturalized gendered biases that are anything but ‘natural’. Whether placed in consciously posed gestures, or operating as melancholic wanderers in a kind of digital or virtual space, Von Hoffner’s paintings challenge us to reconsider the geometry of desire that accompanies the society of hyper-spectacle we call affective capitalism.
Bio: Lisa Von Hoffner is a contemporary figurative painter from Philadelphia. She received her B.F.A. in painting from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2009 and is currently pursuing an M.F.A. at Arizona State University. In 2015 she was in an artist-in-residency program in Jousta, Finland. She has exhibited extensively in the U.S. and abroad, and is currently represented by Beacon Arts Gallery.
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