Identity Art

In a way we’ve said a lot about Identity this summer: The photographs of Francesca Woodman, the photographs of Nikki S. Lee, this CFID project, the Landscapes with a Corpse project. But what we haven’t had a chance to do is look at the nearly 50 years of compelling contemporary art exploring Identity. Identity Art has been a place where oppressed and marginalized people have found a place to express themselves. A place to claim, reclaim, and rehabilitate their cultural identities.

There’s been powerful work from Feminist Artists like Judy Chicago & Barbara Kruger; Latin-American artists like Guillermo Gomez-Peña & Coco Fusco, African-American artists like Adrian Piper & Dread Scott; Native-American artists like Jimmy Durham & James Luna; LGBTQIA artists like Robert Mapplethorpe & Andy Warhol, and many others.

Anida Yoeu Ali & Facebook

Here’s a couple of recent Identity videos. The first, 1700% Project: Mistaken for Muslin is from Anida Yoeu Ali, an artist whose works span performance, installation, video, poetry, public encounters, and political agitation. She is a first generation Muslim Khmer woman born in Cambodia and raised in Chicago. It is part of an ongoing project that engages art as a form of intervention against the racial profiling of Muslims in a post 9/11 era.

The second is a video on identity, coming out, & bullying, especially at young high-school and earlier ages, from Facebook.

1700% Project: Mistaken for Muslim from Anida Yoeu Ali on Vimeo.

Your Projects

And on to your CFID Activities!

Li-Ren Chang

Li-Ren Chang

Li-Ren Chang

In a remarkable project Li-Ren decided to dress as a Communist and try to have discussions about Marxist ideology. Sadly he wasn’t able to have those conversations with the people he met. In fact, far from debating ideological nuance, he discovered that none of the people he spoke with even knew the difference between Taiwan & China! 🙁 I think in a different location or around a different group of people, Li-Ren might have had very different and perhaps really interesting conversations.

Kelsey DeMeire

DeMeire put on the most random outfit she could come up with and then made this cool video wandering around Long Beach’s 2nd street area at night.

For the most part, everyone was nice and willing to talk to me despite the bright camera lights shining in their face. I only have two people walk away from me as if I was some crazy person, I can’t say I don’t blame them though. I’m actually surprised so many people were willing to talk to me wight he camera on them. It was really interesting seeing what their responses were though, and funny enough I got a lot of people who thought I was a fashion major which is kind of ironic seeing as though my outfit was hideous.

Sadie Soto

Sadie Soto in a normal outfit for her

Sadie “Before”

I decided to dress completely out of the ordinary. I put on random clothes and accessories that would normally not be placed together including 2 shirts, tights, leggings, boy’s gym shorts, one sock, a glove, a scarf, one bracelet, a bandanna, a snow boot, and a sandal. I even placed half my hair in a bun and the other half in a braid. I figured that by dressing so crazy, I would achieve more reactions from outsiders then by portraying a certain identity.

I received numerous looks that were often inquisitive and perplexed. Many people looked me up and down or even stared. I noticed that many students tried to avoid me either by putting in headphones or straying away from eye contact. Often times, people would say they had class or were too busy to answer my questions. Nevertheless, I did receive some answers. When asked what they thought my name was I received: “something with an S,” Megan, Anne, Sarah, and Leslie. As far as what people thought my major was I got answers such as art, human relations, theater, communications, and math.

Although I was really nervous for this activity and kept putting it off, I feel that I was actually able to grow through this counterfactual identity. Normally I am not one to approach people and ask questions. In fact, I would probably have been too embarrassed to even wear this outfit in public if it was not for this project. However, I was able to get out of my comfort zone and branch out which is really cool.

Sadie Soto on the CSULB campus in her Counterfactual Identity outfit.

Sadie “After”

Kate Brogan

Kate Brogan in her EDM outfit for Counterfactual Identity

EDM Kate

For her CFID outfit Kate decided to go to her first ever EDM (Electronic Dance Music) show and try to look the part.

What I usually look like: T-shirt, barely any make-up, and hair in a ponytail.

This change definitely made people react to me different; I think in a better way. My outfit made me look like I had a lot of confidence and I truly belonged with that group of people, which was my intention when I changed my “identity.”

Jessica Garnett

Jessica Garnett in a pink wig and tight dress

Jessica Garnett

Jess decided to turn up the volume with a hot pink wig and a tight dress. She met people on 2nd Street in Belmont Shore. A lot of peeps thought she was a Fashion or Comm major. Nobody thought she studied Math or Science. Some asked if she even went to college at all. Jess had a great time with this activity and wants to do it again, just for fun.

Sami Focarino

Sami Focarino in a colorful outfit

Sami “Before”

Sami decided to try something 180° from Jessica. As she put it,

I can get pretty crazy with my outfits. So for this project I decided to wear something I would NEVER wear out of the house: sweatpants! I am not the type of person to ever go out of the house in sweats. I am a dress to impress, you never know who you’re going to meet kind of gal. So, I wore sweats, an oversized t-shirt, and no shoes. Ew, I know. But I did it.

Sami Focarino in sweatpants

Sami “After”

A number of you tried to talk to people who didn’t really want to talk to you. Sometimes because you looked a little different, or perhaps because they were just in a hurry. Ricki looked great and I was surprised that so many peeps were too busy to talk to her. We the CSULB Campus were pretty inconsiderate of Ricki which really surprised me and made me a bit sad. But Sami’s sweatpants project got the opposite reaction:

With this outfit I was really expecting people to completely ignore me, turn or even run away. But what I got was much different! I had people coming up to me asking if I needed help! This project restored my faith in humanity. It was amazing how many people wanted to be so generous. Someone even asked me if I needed a place to stay that night! I think this all happened because I was a girl. If my brother did this project, I do not think he would’ve received the same reactions. Overall, this was an amazing experience for me.

Drew Jimenez

Drew Jimenez in a Lakers jersey


Drew decided that where he went was even more important that how he looked. His plan was to put together what for him would be an offbeat look, go interact with some people at Starbucks, and then get out before someone photographed him and turned him into an Internet Meme.

When I ordered my drink the barista asked me what my name was; so I told her to guess. I did not even see the name till after which I thought was kind of funny. She guessed I was a music major at Cerritos College. Probably because I was a couple pieces of jewelry away from looking like a hip hop mogul.

Drew Jimenez drink from Starbucks where the Barista guessed he was "Jeremy"


Shivam Mehta

Shivam Mehta in a polo shirt.

Shivam “before”

I decided to wear something not too crazy but just something that wasn’t me. At first I was a little self-conscious but with time I started feeling comfortable. I decided to go to the mall. I wore sunglasses, with plugs in my ears. I asked people what they thought my name was and I got all sorts of different names. The funny thing was that not one person guessed my ethnicity right in this outfit. I also I asked them what they thought my major was and a few people said Psychology. As I approached them a few people asked, “are you doing a YouTube video?”

Shivam Mehta in sunglasses and a tank top

Shivam “After”

collage of Art110 Summer 2014 Counterfactual Identity images

Written by Glenn Zucman

BA, Psychology, University of Hawaii, MFA, Intermedia Art, Long Beach State. Host of American Public Media's "Border Patrol." Host of KBeach Radio's "Strange Angels." Interested in Identity Art that explores our Oracle-at-Delphi-like straddling of corporeal and virtual realms in our new media century. Civil rights in online space. 10 years...
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