The colour of our skin; what toilet we can, should or must use; who we can or may not love; languages we speak or do not; the accent with which we speak; how we sit, and eat; or what prefixes, such as spicy or stinky, others assign to the food we eat. Tradition, economy, or even knowledge, the markers of identity are many. But strangely identity is often ascribed and reduced to ‘where’ rather than ‘what’. Beyond a set of cliches, what does the country emblazoned on our passport cover say about us? We tend to perpetuate the myth of a nation as eternal, singular, and a naturally occurring entity. But countries appear, expand, contract, fail and even seize to exist. So how can they be absolute totems of identity.
Geographies also represent power. Hidden in the question ’where are you from?’ is often another implied one—‘why are you here?’ What if, instead of ’where’ we start looking at ‘what’ as a unit for measuring identity. How we perceive objects betray our culture, experiences, and geography. In this ongoing project, banal objects of daily use from my home are stripped of context and presented as fictional entities. The viewer then is encouraged to speculate about their use and purpose. The ensuing discussion becomes a trigger for introspection. About networks, experiences, culture, geography and ultimately the concept of identity.
︎ Click on the contact sheet for a full-screen view of the images
Billig, Michael. Banal Nationalism. Sage, 2018.
Dunne, Anthony, and Fiona Raby. Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming. MIT, 2014.
McNeil, Dylan, director. NY, the Lost Civilization. 1997.
Selasi, Taiye. “Don't Ask Where I'm From, Ask Where I'm a Local.” TED conference. https://bit.ly/1PNdyqX
︎ Reportage commissioned by Le Monde, and published on 9 September 2015, being continued as a personal project. To read the publication, click here.