Multiple Identities. The Representation of the Self in Postmodern Time

    • Cover Venice
    • Presentation speakers
      • Arianna Fantuzzi, International University of Languages and Media, Milan, Italy


    As the 20th Century was drawing to a close, Frederic Jameson (1984) theorized the disappearance of the individual subject of the modern era, describing its replacement by a fragmented, decentered and multiple ego, produced by the postmodern culture. Absorbed in a continuous present that erases history and distinguished by a sort of emotional flatness, the postmodern ego is nourished by the images from the media that “furnishes us with a multiplicity of incoherent and unrelated languages of the self” (Gergen 1991, 6). Whilst postmodernism theorists discussed contemporary identity, several artists created self-portraits that multiplied, fractured or disguised their image, reflecting on the status of identity in contemporary society. My aim is to investigate the nature of this kind of self-representations by exploring the problematic process of identity making in postmodern time. The focus will be on works such as Spermini (1997) by Maurizio Cattelan, The Book of Food (1985-1993) by Vanessa Beecroft, History Portraits (1988–90) by Cindy Sherman and the Cremaster Cycle (1994–2002) by Matthew Barney. These and other artworks manifest the multiformity and mobility of contemporary identity through different media, representing an ego fragmented, multiplied, hidden behind masks or dismembered, which supposes different self-concepts or a changing identity. In order to analyse these works, I will use an interdisciplinary approach combining art history and anthropological studies on the relationship between identity and its representation (Belting, Hall) with postmodern self theories (Jameson, Gergen).