The Defining Self Experience

The Defining Self Experience is a participatory exhibition showcasing the ways in which society binds us, yet highlighting the ways that we can liberate ourselves of these restraints by understanding the non-binary of our identities and claiming the labels we identify with because we want to, not because we have to.

The installation is comprised of three walls of categories – gender, sexuality and religion. Each of these aspects of our identity can be influenced by social conformity; what we are told by doctors, family, friends, schools, the media all influence our perception of our identity and what we consider acceptable. The categories of plaques consist of 41 different gender identities, 19 different sexual identities and 20 of the most practiced religion’s in the world, as well as ‘Other’ and ‘Prefer not to say’ for each category. Each plaque contains the label and its definition, to allow people a better understanding of terms that many have not heard before or do not care to hear – or see displayed on a wall.

Below the plaque’s is the corresponding stamp, with which the public are invited to claim the labels they want, whether they be labels they already identify with or ones they have just learnt. Using the provided luggage labels, with an attached ‘mini-me’, the audience will stamp their labels and post their completed tag into the hole in the figurative sculpture’s head.

The sculpture is a figurative representation of the social restraints we are confined by from embryonic state. Up until about week seven, both sexes have what is known as “genital ridge” (identical preliminary genitalia), before the Y chromosome signals to start making testosterone, which develops the male genitalia – this means that week six is the last time we’re just classed as an embryo, with no more labels than that. We go from week six as being an embryo, to being dropped into a box of ‘labelisation’ that you cannot escape and grows as you do – this is my visualisation of that.