Identity Investigations

I have always been fascinated by variations: how identity can change and remaining recognizable at the same time? In other words, while changing, at what point that identity is no longer recognizable? And what is that make it recognizable through changes?
There are many ways to explore these questions using images and materials. Or even by playing with Esther. But who is Esther?

Initially, it was a paper strip, a processing waste of a paper work lying on my desk among other materials. It was casually folded in three parts and this folding gave to the piece of paper a special kind of balance so that it “seemed something”… I touched it softly: it began to swing and I began to see it alive. As its identity was taking shape in my mind, I tried to shape it with scissors and here she is: hello Esther!

Once her identity was defined, I just played with it. How does she move in the space, how many positions can she take? How can she relate with different shapes or contexts?

How can her characteristcs be transformed in order to create variations? For example: changing dimensions, material, texture, the shape of some folders or details…

In his book “Fantasia”, the designer Bruno Munari lists a number of creative techniques to transform a known object by changing its characteristics, in order to develop imagination. Here are some of his suggestions:

  • using opposites and antonyms (a fast turtle)
  • multiplying a part of a whole (a dragon with seven heads)
  • changing dimensions (a huge ladybug)
  • changing color (a blue bread)
  • changing material (a sponge hammer)
  • changing the function (a shoe used as a flower vase)
  • changing the context (a ship in the middle of a meadow)

The identity of every character will also evolve within a narrative frame, through encounters, stories, adventures. For example, what if Esther met a cat?

The topic of identity and its possible transformations through variations is also developed in many picture books for children. Here is an example of some pictures from “Hyppopposites” by Janik Coat, where the hippo identity is explored through different colors and textures.

The exploration of the possible variations of an object (of a character or an image) makes us investigate the limits, the potential and the essence of its identity: at what point of the transformation we can say that something has completely turned in something else? Which elements determine and affect one’s own identity?
Like Munari said, “a fish with horns is still a fish”?

Enjoy your identity exploration and don’t miss Esther Trilogy on robertapuccilab Youtube channel!

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