Creating identity through Art Essay Paper

Art Generating Identity

Analysis of Civil art ‘humanizes’ places, expresses identity, lecturer at NDMOA says by Haley (2014).

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A key component in persuading individuals to go along a certain path is establishment of a vision. Speeches are viewed as a means to persuade an audience; likewise, images can also be just as convincing as verbal rhetoric. Art plays a rhetorical role, as well, making viewers believe the authenticity of that which is represented. Cultural and social values and famous historical occurrences are reflected often in art works. Seeing art which reflects ideals, values and life experiences may prompt spectators to think through a reality which may otherwise have been neglected by them. This kind of art, at the very least, drives individuals to challenge large societal problems, thereby, increasing the likelihood of reactive action by the community (Howard & Hoffman, 2013).

The nature of public art isn’t merely aesthetic; cultural, political, and social issues contextualize publicly-located art forms. For example, public sculpture is imparted by, as well as defines, its spatial position, and is, as such, a component of a societal dynamic wherein the processes by which an individual defines oneself in society aren’t limited to forming distinctions between others and oneself, but extends to things and objects, without any lesser significance, and also to the very places and spaces where they are located. (Proshansky, Fabian & Kaminoff, 1983). This applies not just to space in the local environment, but to entirely built identities (like cities and towns) as well. For instance, in a major Northern England city, Leeds, such background variables have facilitated determination of the changing relationship between the city and public art, particularly with sculptures that are publicly positioned (Remesar, 2000; Haley, 2014).

A majority of geographical public art engagements revolve around numerous connected claims pertaining to its place-making capacity, an initial claim being that economic progress of regions, cities, and localities can be facilitated by public art. Art installation in public zones was justified progressively, by the 80s, in relation to its assumed role in urban revitalization. The essential conception was that investors and tourists would be lured in by artworks. Literature on creative cities has, more recently, revived this, through urban art’s depiction as an enticement for creative people (Schuermans, Loopmans & Vandenabeele, 2012).

Meaning of “public art ‘humanizes’ cities”

One of the signs of a quality public area, which different kinds of individuals utilize at different instants of night and day, is that it is a flexible space that is capable of accommodating numerous activities, both spontaneous and planned, and can transform, with time, to facilitate new uses, thus energizing the location continually (Proshansky et al., 1983). A range of diverse activities taking place in a city’s numerous public spaces suggests that it still has a lot to offer, with regards to energy, creativity, spontaneity and liveability. Those who pass through these spaces play dual roles: as contrasted with passively observing others’ experiences on TV, film or video, the individual, in a public space is himself present, ordinarily participating, but participating nevertheless (Howard & Hoffman, 2013; Remesar, 2000).

Some cities have a range of quality public places, such as parks, squares, lakes, public gardens and plazas. While some spaces are green and vast, with pathways, lakes, smaller paved spaces for events and exercising, cafes, restaurants, eateries and informal shops, others are merely small spaces (which may be paved or unpaved) where individuals can walk, sit, cycle, skate, watch others or play badminton. Some spaces are overly small and insufficient, except for sitting and relaxing on benches for some minutes before continuing on to one’s destination. Others are mostly empty in some part of the day, and may be packed early in the morning and all through the evening, while still others are forever bustling with people, partly because of their easy access and central location (Efroymson, Thanh Ha & Thu Ha, 2009; Schuermans et al., 2012).

Unscripted spaces are appealing and open. They, perhaps, offer a hint of activities one can possibly conduct there, but nothing more. These inspire creativity and enable people to form their environment, instead of having to go by the fixed script of everyday living always: working at the office, shopping at stores, sitting in traffic or moving on streets. The freedom and liberty sought so desperately by people can be found in public spaces; it can seldom be gained elsewhere. Unscripted areas are also useful in space usage terms, as the very same area can be utilized by different individuals at different instants in diverse ways. For example, trees can be used for sheltering oneself from rain, shading oneself from the sun, climbing, obtaining fruit, and even tying one’s dog. Joggers can utilize playground equipment for stretching. Plazas offer their services for festivals, concerts, events, ballroom dances, football and tai chi (Efroymson et al., 2009).

2. Paris Eiffel tower and the Taj Mahal of India

Several reasons are cited for Eiffel Tower’s construction. The key reason behind its creation was the 1889 Paris Exposition or World Exhibition, commemorating the French Revolution’s centenary in Europe. The French Revolution marked a key event in the history of France, which endeavoured to eliminate divine-right kings and dictatorships, and form a government that was more democratic. Several French citizens and officials wanted to commemorate its centenary by improving France’s and Paris’s quality. Many suggested that constructing new, beautiful structures would make a great means for commemoration. All through France, several designers and engineers submitted ideas and designs for new improvements to France. Gustave Eiffel’s idea was one of the most attractive ones submitted. The Eiffel Tower forever symbolizes France, and Paris, in particular. It is said that symbols have a plainly arbitrary, though conventionalized, link between signified and signifier; i.e. often, symbols come to represent what is signified (Proshansky et al., 1983). The Eiffel Tower denotes Paris, for outsiders. The place-myth notion of Shields can be utilized here, as the image of Eiffel Tower alone can call to mind an entire structure, region and site, by representing just a bit (Proshansky et al., 1983; Efroymson et al., 2009).

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India, is undoubtedly Mughal architecture’s most illustrious example. This magnificent white tomb was constructed by Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, in memory of Arjumand Banu Begum (known more popularly as Mumtaz Mahal, meaning “Chosen of the Palace”), his beloved wife. Mumtaz became Shah Jahan’s second wife in 1612 and passed away in childbirth in 1629, at Burhanpur, where she had joined her husband for a campaign. It is stated that Shah Jahan was inconsolable after the loss of his inseparable companion, and contemplated abdicating his throne to his sons. For more than 2 years, the court mourned her death; finally, Shah Jahan made up his mind to commemorate Mumtaz’s memory with an edifice unlike any that was ever built (Howard & Hoffman, 2013; Schuermans et al., 2012). Rabindranath Tagore describes the Taj as a slash on eternity’s face; it is popularly considered an authentic “Wonder of the World.” Although the Taj’s architectural history has garnered much attention, its political and cultural interpretation hasn’t ever been attempted. Despite the fact that it dazzles and moves every individual who sees it, it can never be forgotten that the Taj’s history, akin to other modern and pre-modern monumental achievements, is indisputably bound to slavery and oppression (Howard & Hoffman, 2013).

Of course, other broader ideological and cultural issues exist in regard to public art, like the implicit dispute between social institutions’ or public communities’ conservatism and the necessity to deliver opportunities for aesthetic risk-taking and creative experimentation. Cities and public areas are constructs, which determine cultural and social identities, as well as are determined by sociocultural practices; within these constructs public art’s role can be dominant. The opportunity, accordingly, exists for developing a system of public art in any city, which can drastically raise ideas of art, as well as of public places and issues surrounding traditional delineation of private and public, of the corporate and the domestic, and which address issues relating to gender, class and age (Efroymson et al., 2009).


Efroymson, D., Thanh Ha, T.K. & Thu Ha, P. (2009). Public Spaces: How They Humanize Cities. HealthBridge – WBB Trust.

Haley, C. (2014, Mar 14). Civil art ‘humanizes’ places, expresses identity, lecturer at NDMOA says. McClatchy – Tribune Business News. Retrieved from

Howard, A.D., & Hoffman, D.R. (2013). A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: Building American National Identity Through Art. Perspectives on Political Science, 42(3), 142-151. doi:10.1080/10457097.2013.793517

Proshansky, H.M., Fabian, A.K., and Kaminoff, R. (1983), Place-Identity: Physical World Socialization of the Self, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 3.

Remesar, A. (2000). (Ed): Waterfronts of Art 2. Art for social facilitation, Mongrafies socio-ambientals, 30, Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona 2000

Schuermans, N., Loopmans, M.P., & Vandenabeele, J. (2012). Public space, public art and public pedagogy. Social & Cultural Geography, 13(7), 675-682. doi:10.1080/14649365.2012.728007

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