Failed attempt of identity embodiment 

Up to the end of XIX Century institutions didn’t have any reliable criteria for the certain identification of an individual. A. Bertillon perfected system of anthropometrics classification, which made it possible to establish the identity simply on the basis of seven (bone) measurements. This system “made possible to identify a person previously measured, whatever physical changes may have occurred to them during the period since measurement”. The anthropometrics information was backed up by fingerprints, a note on the color of the eyes and by full-face and profile photographs. In 1890, the reform of the criminal ID system was practically complete, and had been adopted in most Western countries. In 1990 the whole system was computerized.     

On the other hand, individuals always tried to leave behind 'em some mark of their existence, their identity. Different cultures, civilizations, nations, epochs, has different appearance for that. The oldest identity mark is hand stamp found on the wall of Paleolithic cave. Fingerprints today are direct connection with that stamp.  But more important thing, at least for Christian part of the world, happened when Jesus Christ left stamp of his face on a towel, so even God got his “official” identification. After that, when we want to identify something, we use main, front side, so, naturally, face becomes symbol of identity. Appearance of photography and mass media narrowed space of identity to a part of face, usually covered to hide someone’s identity  - zone of eyes & eyebrows.

But, the same man that made ID system, Bertillon said about subjectivity of human eye:  “ One can see just what he looks, but one looks just what one have in mind.”  On the other hand, objectivity of photo-camera is instant and superficial. Even when photography was invented, there was no real dilemma whether it can take place in portraying, because, common opinion was that identity consists from layers (auras) and that photography can record only one of them. So, if purpose of identity card is, to identify person - any ID card based on photography, as a source for identification is from the beginning false, because, photo is referring on one particular moment and stage so it can 't be representative for the whole period of it’s validation. Digital video "PERSONAL ? ID ? CARD 2002 (pages 12-13) problematizes purpose and validation of ID card. It consists of projection of my ID card with photo, which is slowly changing from one photo to another in an endless loop.

That identity layers and inconstancy of identity are questions that I am dealing with, in some of my works.

 “Portrait of an unknown man with a beard (previous pages) work in progress started 2001. In these digital photos I have applied "eyes zone" of my close relatives and friends to my portraits in order to make a series of my ID photos with different identities or different parts (layers) of my identity, which are made by influence of that particularly person.

In E. Grosz’s view, there is no opposition between the real, material body and its various cultural and historical representations. These representations and cultural inscriptions quite literally constitute bodies and help to produce them as such. Part of their own nature is an organic or ontological incompleteness or lack of finality, amenability to social completion, social ordering and organization.  Considering all means by which the body may be manipulated, from dieting and bodybuilding to laser surgery and brain chemistry, none of us inhabit a purely natural body, and no one’s body is complete. That affects even more to human mind. Every one of us, as a social being, suffer from constant internal and external changes, that are, in fact, constant changes of our identity. That changes creates endless process of dying and delivering of identities. So, in that way, life becomes succession of continual dying. That is a fact that I am trying to point out with work “Necrospection”  (on the cover sides) work in progress, started 2000.  It consists of death certifications, which are made for each year of my life, plus two more - first one, at the day of my birth, and last one dated at the future, on my birthday, without photos and with the question mark. Changeable data, beside year of “death”, are authentic photos (for each year) and mark that determine religious or ideology belonging.  It reflects identity changes.

Eugene Lemoine-Luccione, has written:  “Skin is deceptive. In life one only has one’s skin, but having and being are not the same. I never have the skin of what I am. There is no exception to rule because I am never what I have.” This text was very influential to Orlan: “On reading this text, I thought that in our time we have begun to have the means to reduce this gap; in particular with the help of surgery it is becoming possible to match up the internal image with external one.” But it cannot definitively resolve the problems of embodiment and identity – it just denies any possibility of closure and bodily integrity in the subject. Orlan’s transformative strategy recalls that of the French writer and artist Claud Cahun, whose self-portraits and texts obsessively explores the subjectivities of the self and the ambivalence of gendered identities through a series of masquerades and adopted personae. In one photomontage, text encircles a multitude of free-floating self-portraits: “Beneath this mask, another mask. I will never cease carrying all these faces”. Series of bus shelter billboards “Fake Identity” (2001) is reflecting on this statement. Yet what is there before masquerade if identity is ceaseless, without beginning and end; a perpetual becoming? By similarly positioning her identity in a state of perpetual flux Orlan denies the possibility of origination or end, and as such is all the more open to further intervention and resignification: “ I think of identity as being nomadic, multiple. Identities pushed too far in one direction can be destructive. I consider myself able to move from one identity to another without any problem, to change and review these continually.”

So we don’t get identity by our birth because there are no universal and constant attributes of identity but only changes and movement from one to another layer of identity. Everyday-life is ground where identities constitute. Great numbers of disciplinary strategies of Everyday-life are visual. They are stereotypes that have to circle in order to fulfill their mission – to make generally immovability. Identities are issues that get their meaning and purpose in relation with those stereotypes. They belong at same territory - one of the few possible, for realizing of the art works, accepting language and terms from their main source – mass media - in order to question or destroy them, and to make work approachable for widest audience. 

In that field I am placing my works using as mediums stereotypes and objects from everyday life: bus-shelter billboards, gambling machines, death certifications, TV shows, documentaries, ID photography, identity cards, etc.

Since the creation of the perspective system, visual culture has relied on a distinction between exterior reality and the interior of the body where perceptual judgments about that reality are made. “What constitutes through division the “inner” and “outer” worlds of the subject is a border and a boundary tenuously maintained for the purposes of social regulation and control” (Judith Butler 1990). That border is even harder when someone make it in his own mind - making prejudice about himself and others.

Everyone of us have certain opinion about himself, thinking of him from his point of view, based on his perspective, expectations, remembrance etc. about himself. Most of people think of themselves from the period of their lives when they had achieved something for which they are fixed. Some people see themselves as fiction person from their imagination, unfulfilled wishes and desires. All of us see ourselves from the context of our society, culture, environment, epoch etc. All those, and many other standings, determine point of view that everyone takes when he/she is looking at him/herself, and, in fact, determine personal identity or to be more precise perception of personal identity. That perception is not equal with perception of others about our identity and us. Our parents, relatives, friends, neighbors, colleagues etc also have their investments, expectations, and remembrance of us. According to that no one has just one identity but as much identities as he/she or other people percepts. Video 6=36 deals with that question.

It’s a story of six men - my friends, brother and me. We were all born and grew up together in one skyscraper, and become friends, not by our choice but by the place of our birth. So, we know each other all our lives.

In this video every one of us (alone in front of the camera) tried to give his personal identification and also his perception of everybody else’s identity.

In that way story of 6 men becomes a story of 36 identities.

Are they all real or they are virtual?


Which one of them are real and which one is not?

Do we actually know each other and ourselves or we just know the image that we made about the others or us?   

One thing is for sure – all of them made great impact in determining all of those identities, as much as they exist.

Another thing is also sure – One can never choose people that have the largest impact on his identity (family, neighbors, colleagues etc) but he gets them just like some combination on Jackpot machine.

Those are now starting points for digital installation  "LIFE IS A BITCH/JACK-POT"   (next pages)

The work is an actual JACKPOT machine. It functions like any other JACKPOT machine in Gambling house - one can just push the button in order to get a combination. It consists of 21 rotating portrait, which make 7 winning combinations. Each of them are made of 3 portraits of people who had influence on me and my life together - although they do not always have mutual connections or relationships. Every winning combination has its sound confirmation, which determines connection (relationship).

 Winning combinations:

1. FAMILY BONUS (mother, father & brother) - HAPPY BIRTHADY song

2. FULL PACKAGE (my wife, her mother & grandfather) - WEDDING song

3. NEXT LEVEL (my professors from Academy of Arts) - UNIVESITY song

4. ANOTHER TRY (my colleagues from Academy) - LAUGH

5. NEW GAME (young curators from Serbia) - DRUMROLL announcement

6. FREE TRAVEL (German colleagues) - GERMAN NATIONAL SONG - hymn

7. EXTRA BONUS (my self-portraits) - APPLAUSE


In 1902. Georges Demeny wrote: “We submit our animals, to selection, breeding and training, in order to benefit from them. However, we do not have the energy to apply the same procedures to ourselves, even if we are sure that results would exceed our expectations.”  Extreme visions of attempts to create a man and his identity which started at the beginning of XX century with Behavioral and other theories and bared to the core with the Nazi's experiments on people, has found reply in events that happened at the end of XX century. In February 1997, it was announced that Scottish research team led by Dr. Ian Wilmut had successfully cloned a sheep. So, now, everything is changed at the conceptual level. These days, we have "cloning agencies" that are competing just to be officially announced as first one that has finally cloned human being. Fertile ground for breaking these boundaries was settled by universally popular mutants like Michael Jackson. At the beginning, he was “lonely mutant, pioneer of hybrid that is perfect because it’s universal (new race after races).” Today, kids do not have blockades for hybrid society - it’s their world and they see it like perfect future. For them, there is no time to seek for identity - neither in the past nor in the future. Their necessity is now instant connection and some sort of advertisement identity, which can be instantly checked or changed. They simply need - “look". And when it’s not possible to draw argument from own being the only thing that left is act of appearance. Now, it’s a just play for difference, without belief in it. Individuality becomes short-term achievement, without future.                                                                                                                                                                                       


                                                                                                                                                       Miodrag Krkobabić