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Hello Culture: Identity

Hello Culture; Identity is  a full day event exploring how the arts and digital sector can find new ways to forge practices, collaborate with other sectors and contribute to creating new opportunities for experimentation, content and influence how the world sees itself and others.

“When you look in the mirror; Do you see yourself; Do you see yourself; On the T.V. screen; Do you see yourself in the magazine” Poly Styrene

X- Ray Spex sang that “Identity is the crisis can’t you see”, and for under-represented people and those on the margins, identity is denied to them by mainstream norms.
Identity has always been a social construct largely based on how others physically perceive you. Be that gender, ethnicity, age, disability, sexuality or faith, others base their assumptions on their own inherent conscious and subconscious prejudices.

The rise of the online digital persona makes this subjective identity increasingly irrelevant – and self-identity implicit.
Now you get to dictate how you want to be perceived by naming your message, your personal communication style, and how you present your own identity. You can affiliate to the digital tribes you wish to, and fracture and fragment the narrow strictures of identity construct.

If in an online world you can self-identify, how can we embrace that in the physical world where your ethnicity marks you out as something to be demonized by a narrative that’s used to exclude? If we can self-identify online, how can we do so physically in order to break down barriers and prejudice?

The othering of diverse artists means their practice is labelled as marginalised. It is either ignored, or presented as coming from outside the frameworks of culture that stem from white, hetero-normative patriarchal constructs. It is exoticised, or used instrumentally to engage with diverse audiences.

Inclusion narratives on diversity allow non-mainstream artists and audiences in, giving them permission to participate. As well as doing diverse artists a disservice, this only perpetuates a huge cultural divide which alienates and divorces the arts from the socio-political transformations that are affecting society at large. Equally it muffles instead of amplifing a plurality of artistic voices to wider audiences.

Hello Culture Identity reclaims the notions of diversity and equality where self-identification is respected and valued, and in turn subvert a narrative that doesn’t represent those who live within a global community. We need to embrace the past – both long-term and recent – and decide how we wish to interpret it.

Hello Culture Identity embraces the ethnography of communities created in online spaces and harnesses the concept of virtual communities who congregate around shared themes and interests to celebrate a commonality of humanity.

Self-identification fractures the concept of othering. It doesn’t require you to approve or condemn. It’s not asking for permission. It returns the ownership of identity to its owner.

“Experimental Culture” the horizon scan undertaken by Nesta and commissioned by Arts Council England in 2018 found that “Concern about inequitable patterns in access to arts and cultural experiences reflecting (or even reinforcing) existing inequalities, means that work to broaden, diversify and deepen relationships with audiences will be critical in sustaining support for public spending on the arts in future.” The report also suggested “cultivating the capacity to be more experimental in harnessing new technologies and adopting new organisational practices, alongside leveraging the value of data in order to understand how best to engage audiences and test new business models. Central to extending their reach to a wider audience will be fostering a sophisticated array of partnerships – whether with universities, technology companies or with other institutions
open to sharing resources and expertise.

Hello Culture: Identity will explore new digital narratives on identity and look at how artists are creating new dialogues and communities and modes of practice. They are reframing their cultural identities on their terms and refusing to adhere to the identities ascribed to them. In doing so they are creating new opportunities for co-creation with audiences. The conference will explore experimentation in digital technology providing artists and arts organisations access to new thinking, ideas, forms of practice and to experiment in workshops to test out some of their thinking.

If a digital identity is “information on an entity used by computer systems to represent an external agent. That agent may be a person, organisation, application” then under-represented artists and audiences can create and lay claim to their own identities and rewrite the identities ascribed to them. This lays the way forward for digital identities that are co-created by :

• Cultural production that reflects discourse and narratives around ethnicity, gender, disability, class, sexuality
• Cultural production that reflects intersectionality
• Programming that reflects everyone with diluting culture and identity
• Cultural programming without “othering”

“Cultural identities come from somewhere. But, like everything which is historical, they undergo constant transformation. Far from being eternally fixed in some essentialised past, they are subject to the continuous play of history, culture and power.”* *HALL, STUART. (1990). Cultural Identity and Diaspora. Identity: Community, culture, difference. 2.

Hello Culture is supported by STAGEText  who will provide captioning and live subtitling services to make the event accessible to people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing.