Identity can sometimes be classified as a very vague word. It’s a hard concept to pin down for both individuals and groups, which makes it an ideal and broad choice for the theme of an art event. But the folks at ArtSideOut didn’t just stop with identity; they went one step further and chose the theme ‘Expanding Identity.’
As described from the event’s website, “Expanding Identity will focus on art-forms that express the identity of the community within and around the UTSC campus. The festival will emphasize on reaching out to all the diverse programs, peoples, and cultures that thrive and transcend at UTSC through multi-disciplinary art manifestations.”
Kali Banner, the Studio Special Projects Director for ArtSideOut, explains that the theme is about “allowing people to express different sides of the self that are never really focused on or touched upon.” She adds, “There are two art history students, and both have never created art installations, so it’s tapping into a space they’ve never done before,” Banner explains. “One is visual arts, and one is sound art performance, but they were chosen because there is a focus on the multidisciplinary aspect of the mission; it invites students who are not traditionally art students. We wanted to seek artists who weren’t just from studio projects, but all students,” she continues.
Banner says, “It’s both about Scarborough and personal identity. It’s asking something very personal of people, reaching into someone, and asking them who they really are. It’s the ability to express who they really are, and to work on the word ‘expanding.’ It’s in the middle of where you are, so you get to play.”
Looking through the lens of not only identity, but also through the idea of identity without borders, is a twist on a topic that is difficult to talk about for many students. “When people ask, ‘Who are you?’ that’s a really hard question to answer,” says second-year international development studies student Taylor Lambie. “Thinking of yourself as completely without any borders on your identity can make it extra difficult to define who you are.”
In defining ‘Expanding Identity,’ second-year student Alyssa Kew looks at borderless identity as an opportunity. “’Expanding Identity’ means embracing as many opinions and perspectives as possible,” she says. Fifth-year student Fejiro Erome-Utunedi, supports that definition, adding, “University gives you the tools to define who you are, but it’s also trying not to define yourself in one rigid definition; it’s always changing.”
The university’s role in helping students find and create their own identity can be summed up in one word: boundless. The word ‘boundless,’ which can be seen on the flags hanging from poles around campus, is mostly used to describe the limitlessness of one’s academic experience. As well, the term also speaks to the fact that one is allowed to continuously try to redefine themselves.
Art pieces that take on the theme of ‘Expanding Identity,’ and works that encourage people to join in on the exploration of identity will be in abundance on the day of the event. Other things students can look forward to at the event include installation pieces across campus, visual art on walls, several performances, such as dancing, singing, and short plays, as well as some workshops. One workshop will be a spoken word workshop from an organization called R.I.S.E (Reaching Intellectual Souls Everywhere), which is a Scarborough-based collective of artists and activists who provide a space for artists to come and perform work in front of an audience whether it be spoken word or music.
University is a time to explore who you are and what your identity means to you. As you peruse through the various forms of artwork on Oct. 6, perhaps you will take the time to think about who you are and what you define yourself as. Who knows, in the process of answering that question, you may discover that you have no answer at all. And maybe that’s okay.