Collaborative Expressions of Identity through Collage

As an art teacher my pedagogical philosophy reflects a goal of cultural competency to negotiate and understand the complexities of social and individual identities that may relate to my students. Therefore, when I was invited to lead a session with the Civic Participation Project I was excited about the opportunity to work through issues related to identity and social justice by making collaborative art. The idea of making a collage about identity seemed apt as a form of visualizing the diverse characteristics that comprise our sense of self.

In making a collage you tear or cut pieces of paper from scraps of magazines, newspapers, construction paper or other materials then glue it to a piece of paper to create a new work of art. The process of collage is symbolic of the negotiation of identity that takes place between people all the time. Furthermore, constructing a collage is similar to identity formation, in which there is also a process of selecting, arranging, and organizing given materials to represent an idea. During the session with the CCP participants we engaged in a dialogue about identity to both stimulate the inspiration for the collaborative collage that would later take place, and share thoughts about the concept of identity.

We first discussed the topic of identity through the following questions: What does the term identity mean? How do you define your individual or collective identity? The questions serve as an entry point for critical analysis of a broad concept, which was further narrowed by unpacking the definition of identity with more questions. For instance, “Why is it important to have a definition of identity,” “How might identity be a tool used for oppression of marginalized communities,” “How might it be a tool for resistance,” and finally, “What facets of your identity are most salient for you?”

The responses of those at the session were varied, and hearing their perspectives shed more light on the diversity of identity. Among many answers were that is: malleable, dissident, beautiful, hurtful, able to be shaped, a marker, a perception, a form of agency, and a place. There was a consensus within the group that there is power within naming different forms of and differences in identity as a form of expression. Likewise, the group decided that speaking about identity was a liberating experience that engaged community and critiqued problematic structural systems.

At the end of the session there were seven individual collages that were created on a shared piece of paper, which created a cohesive narrative-driven collage. The personal experiences of the participants were interpreted visually through the collage, which enable each one to engage in a unique form of expression.

-Reflections from Aaron Barksdale, a recent TC grad and facilitator for the 2nd CPP #Making workshop


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