Who am I? Who are you?

March 8, 2010

The question of identity has long been a prevalent issue for many artists’ as artistic expression cannot fail to reveal some sense of the identity behind the work – often an uncomfortable fact for an artist to confront. The current exhibition at London’s Wellcome Collection Identity: 8 Rooms 9 Lives explores the tension between the way we view ourselves and how others see us by examining 9 lives, from a racial minority to the first transsexual as well as a set of twins.

A personal sense of identity is inevitably thrown into deeper question and complexity for a set of identical twins as any clear sense of individuality is clouded and it is no new fascination in the art world. Twins were also recently used in Tate’s Autumn exhibition, Pop Life, sitting in front of a pair of Damien Hirst’s spot paintings featuring as a piece of art.

Factum Tremblay from the series Factum 2009

In her current exhibition at White Cube Hoxton Square, artist Candice Breitz hones in on this intriguing subject ‘Factum’ is a series of in-depth video portraits of twins – and one set of triplets – a body of work that extends upon Breitz’s ongoing interest in doubling, portraiture and identity. Titled after Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Factum I’ and ‘II’ (1957) near-identical twin paintings, Breitz’s ‘Factum’ explores the modes of internal and external forces that drive individuation.

Factum Misericordia from the series Factum 2009

The gallery space is divided up into a series of darkened cinemas each devoted to one set of identical siblings telling their own story. The ‘Factums’ as Breitz calls them are presented as two screens side by side, one for each twin to tell their own story. They are both dressed identically and placed in the same setting but the artist interviewed each one on their own for up to seven hours. Side by side they offer their own take on life as a twin / triplet from family difficulties, to crisis of identity and sibling bonds. Whilst their stories are presented as monologues, with no interjections from the interviewer, Breitz has managed to get a great deal of emotional and at times heart wrenching content out of her subjects. The stories of each twin are inter-spliced with one another, creating an effect of conversation between the two, complicating the relationship in the finished work by offering two alternative perspectives at once.

Factum Tang from the series Factum 2009

The exhibition runs until 20th March 2010.