Who are you - really?
'Finding yourself' and 'knowing yourself' are certainly well-used phrases - which some may think over-used. Yet somehow I had this idea (and I don't know where it came from) that if you can find the source of your essential 'you-ness' you have also found the source of your originality. But as I researched this idea I found it wasn't necessarily true...
One interesting question to ask people is 'Can you point to where the you is in your body?' Bruce Hood in his book 'The Self Illusion' (Constable, London, 2011) tells readers to:
'...try to locate where that self is. With both hands, point with your index finger to the sides of your head where you think your inner self is currently located. When both fingers are pointing to where you think you are having that experience at this very moment in time inside your head, keep one finger pointing and with the other point to this same place from the front of your head so you can accurately triangulate the site of your consciousness.'
But I have found that if you are not so prescriptive when you ask the question people point to all sorts of different parts of the body. Some point to their stomach or diaphragm as the source of their emotional responses. Somewhere deep in the central core of their body is where their self resides.
Also, when I've asked people where their ideas come from, some point to their brain, others point skywards, or forwards, or back over their shoulder - somewhere beyond themselves. This is corroborated by documentaries featuring musicians: Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, and our home grown Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame come to mind. They’ve all said of a specific hit song or the creative process in general, that it comes from beyond themselves. So their identity is then perhaps not as the source of creativity, but as a channel for it.
Another key to finding about our multidimensional selves is highlighted by a statement from the same book: 'We are much more dependent on others than we appreciate.' My take on this is to ponder what or who has influenced the way I see things. Then to find out who has influenced them - and the influences before them. If you try it I wonder if a Cirque de Soleil picture will emerge where you are standing on top of a pyramid of giants. Among them may be some famous names you can use in your Open Studios publicity. In an FT article 'Simon Schama Talks to Grayson Perry' (Simon Schama, 28 June 2013), Grayson Perry talks about how unaware many people are of this aspect of their art. Influences on his 'Vanity' tapestry series listed in the same article include no less than Giovanni Bellini, Carlo Crivelli, Masaccio and Thomas Gainsborough.
This could be an enormous and never ending discussion. But the conclusion I have drawn so far is that where you are situated inside yourself is something only you can know because you feel it. As a creative person you may feel that you are a channel or instrument through which creativity flows. Alternatively you may feel that your imagination - applied to processes from idea to finished product. - is your vital source.
Finally, my 'me-ness' and your 'you-ness' do not exist in isolation. Other people have and will continue to influence us. Some may have famous names and others may not. As artists and makers the famous names are a useful way of showing that we understand our cultural roots. In HVA most of us will have shown our selves in exhibitions. By producing and connecting we in turn leave a legacy. It might be an uncomfortable thought but someone may be standing on your shoulders at this very moment...
Does any of this resonate with you? Where do you think your self lives? Where does your inspiration come from?