All content on this blog is copyright by Marci Andrews Wahlquist as of its date of publication.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Identity Questions

This week a friend and I needed a day out and went to one of the local museums of art where an exhibit explored the expression of identity in different artistic media. We saw our own faces in a mirror; we saw the words to explain our reflections written backwards and reflected upon how our familiarity with our own looks was fundamentally flawed for being always the reverse of reality.

How reversed is my perception of myself in other ways? How flawed is my perception of other people’s faces?

We saw faces in video, in structured and unstructured activity, during moments of insignificance and during times of great stress. We pondered who these people were and how they defined themselves in the shifting circumstances of their video capture.

It never occurred to me, until the Mormon missionaries asked me, that the question “Who am I?” was one of the fundamental ideas of existence. I had never wondered, had never asked that question. Now I wonder all the time: my life has become a quest for the complete answer. The simple line, “I am a child of God,” provides bedrock for all the rest of the answers to be built upon.

My friends often tell me they look in their mirrors these days and wonder who the person is staring back—who hijacked the youthful good looks, the smooth skin, the thick hair, the toned muscles that they feel should still be reflected there, no matter how many years have passed. I learned early not to depend too much on what I saw in my mirror; as backwards as the mirror’s reality is, I looked in it not to approve but to reject. By the time I learned that my perception of my reflection (the backwards reality) was distorted, it was too late to learn to approve—it was time instead to learn the ephemeral nature of identity bound up in physical appearance.

Maybe that was a blessing: I don’t mind the lines and the white hairs; I do mind some things I see in the mirror and think I shouldn’t be seeing because what I see is not supposed to be me.

From the mirror in the museum I turned to my camera. Photographs are supposed to capture people’s identities in some way. We posed for each other in various attitudes of “Day Out at the Museum”-ness. Were our poses anything to do with our real identities? Poses by definition are something artificial. How possible is it to be natural when a camera is pointing at you? I took one picture of my friend trying to avoid the camera. She thought I was taking a picture of the scenery. Was that her “real” identity? We ended by not trying to be natural, which is paradoxically the more natural reaction to the camera.

Our day out has given me lots more questions about identity and ideas to ponder. All this reflecting should make me reevaluate my response to my reflection, if nothing more.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome but don’t show up until I approve them. If they get lost (and sometimes they do), please try again!