The Identity Web: Deepening our dialogue about social and cultural similarities through engagement with wool and words

Year: 2012

Author: Mills-Bayne, Martyn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Our identities are both conferred on us and internally constructed through interactive relationships (Partington 2001). However, with the growing diversity of our communities and societies, and the dissolving of traditional/concrete identity roles in general (Austin 2005), the notion of our social and cultural identities can be quite fluid. The Arts have long been a safe place to explore notions of identity, and this presentation describes how arts practice in the form of a physically interactive installation was used with post-graduate pre-service teachers to build on theoretical understandings of identity.

The Identity Web installation described in this paper was based on an extensive artwork created by Mary Corey March ( 2012) that was shared with the public at the Red Hook Waterfront Gallery, Brooklyn in 2011. The author was inspired by this artwork and interactivity to create a structurally similar object that focused on the place and context that this new installation was situated within.

Several students who were involved in the dynamic creation with this interactive activity were interviewed about their experience of engaging with The Identity Web installation, and their responses are used to weave together the contextual understanding of their own personal and teacher identity created through their engagement with this arts-based learning experience.

As part of this presentation, the next iteration of this installation will be on display to allow attendees to map out their own identities as they relate to connection and the memetic artefact of a 'family tree'. This iteration of the identity web was born out of the author's experience of simultaneously provoking student thinking about the loss of family connection and identity for people from The Stolen Generations, and being asked to complete a family tree for his daughter's homework. What does this look like when you only have one biological branch to follow, three fathers, a step family, a family by marriage, and several non-biological siblings…and where do you even begin to place your step-sister's half-sister?

Key Words

Social identity, cultural identity, visual art installation, pre-service teachers, dialogue