Drag Queens, Borders, Rivers, Death and Transformation
by Sonny Smith
Identity is not stable or rational, but an ever conflicting tension between id and ego, conscious and subconscious mind. -Freud
Up til about 13 me, my friends, we were whatever we wanted top be. One day skate rats, the next day kung fu, the next day new waver, next day heavy metal, surfers, baseball players, on and on it went.
High school ends that usually. The ‘group’ starts telling you who you are. If you’re into sports you’re an athlete. If you’re into studies you’re a nerd. If you’re socially awkward you’re a weirdo. When you give up on the whole scene you get called a loner!
The crowd, the community, the society, has ideas about identity. Strict ideas. If you’re outside it, it’s going be rough; you get called a misfit.
After you grow up bigger limitations come in. Careers. Jobs. What are you going to decide to be? You’ve got to pick SOMETHING. Even if you choose nothing you’ve chosen.
I could never choose… so I drifted around. I’ve had a slew of jobs. My resume doesn’t look too reliable I guess. I had a job making copper gutters for two years. One day the foreman on a job says: here comes the copper guy. I didn’t want to be a ‘copper guy’ so I lost interest.
Marriage is tough too. Any relationship is tough. You gotta be the same person day in day out. What if you wake up, you want to be someone else? Most relationships don’t allow for it.
It’s not identity crisis. It’s identity impermanence.* Who are you gonna be today? Maybe today’s the day you start being someone new. At least you’re trying. Hard to do when your job is depending on you to be the same person as yesterday… society is stacked against the new you! It’s stacked against birth! It only knows death!
* We are never just who we are in a given moment but a constantly evolving thing- Heidegger
Therefore, society is not for the living, it is for the dying. To live, to be fully alive, you must be outside society. An outlaw.
You’d think being an artist would allow for a lot of identity exploration. It does. But the art world is a big jail cell for the imagination. The art sellers and the art buyers, and all the media* in between want you to be one thing so they can organize you accordingly and stack you over with the others like you.
* buyers and sellers at the same time
The art ‘community’ is a big joke. Like any society, it believes it celebrates life but it survives on death.
Some artists capitulate to this game of narrow definition.* Or some find ways to keep their narrowed focus fresh. Then, some don’t conform. They keep breaking their own walls down. Art is elusive, evolution is mysterious…
* Their art doesn’t grow but their pocketbooks do!
Of course, one of the biggest limitations of all is what you believe. Continue reading