In his 1934 text, "Mind Self and Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviourist", George Herbert Mead stated that social identities are created through our on-going social interaction with other people and our subsequent self-reflection about who we think we are according to these social exchanges.
Mead's work shows that social identities are negotiated through agreement, disagreement, and negotiation with other people. We reassess and adjust our behaviour and our self-image based upon our interactions. Ideas of similarity and difference are central to the way in which we achieve a sense of identity and social belonging, thus establishing the idea of "the other" as a binary opposites for social categories.
His work has taken on a new significance in our hyper-connected, social-media driven society of the 21st century. With the current rise of nationalist political sentiment around the world, Mead's concept of the "other" carries a new weight as we observe the tense political sand-offs in the United States with the outright and open use of false information and fake news. Socio-political issues around immigration, security and refugee policies have become building blocks for a culture of fear. Nationalist politicians weigh in on xenophobia, racism and financial insecurity to build and maintain their following. In essence this culture can be defined as Us versus Them.
Using Mead's notion of "otherness" as key to understanding how social identities are constructed and how social & cultural minorities are identified, often marginalised and represented / rejected within a society, this body of work will focus on individuals from social groups that could be considered as my "other." The works will question the validity of how we define social groupings. Though the medium of painting limits our experience and understanding of what we are looking at or who we are looking at, it offers the opportunity to view our "others" in a new way, creating a path to understanding our own position as the "other" to individuals from other social groupings. Works from this series will explore and confront not only my own personal "others" but also attempt to confront viewers with their "others."
- Otherness - State of the Art Gallery | Cape Town | South Africa | April 2017