During the first semester of my second year was the period where I began describing myself as a shared identity. The first time I came across this term was in a group crit with Alex Frost. While discussing the conjoined dress, he questioned whether it was about a shared identity between my two bodies.
After acknowledging that other words may explain my identity more appropriately than collaboration and Third Identity, I began to look deeper into my identity. I realised my two bodies never truly did their work separately. All sewing presented as solely Molly’s work was also influenced and produced by Gabby and vice versa with Molly helping in the execution and planning of Gabby’s photography. As a result, by the second semester of my second year, I did not separate my work again. I stayed with shared identity for a long time during the rest of my second year because it felt so accurate to how I felt.
Before I officially started using shared identity, I had already come across the word bisect, but I still opted to use shared identity to describe myself in tutorials and discussions. Shared identity was easily defined and grasped, it’s simply the words shared, and identity combined – rarely did I even have to explain. Additionally, due to a lecturer being the one to bring it up, it felt official and acceptable to use. To use ‘bisect’ would mean creating a new meaning to a word in terms of collaboration, it was daunting to move onto this, although used within my second-year study proposal it was used as an appropriate title and not a description of my identity.
Figure 5 shows the conjoined dress discussed in Alex Frost’s group tutorial, that I mentioned previously. I made the conjoined dress by modifying a second hand large, pleated wedding dress. By un-pleating the fabric, the dress miraculously fitted both bodies, with the additional help of a few panels on the bodice – this fascination of joining my two bodies as a singular entity built from work discussed in the Third Identity chapter. By connecting my two bodies in conjoined garments, I was visually reflecting how I was beginning to feel as a shared identity. Although I made the conjoined wedding dress during the Third Identity stage it was clear even at that point my bodies didn’t entirely relate to Third Identity; but rather just the ‘phantom body’ (which I later referred to as my shared identity). During this period, I felt incredibly inspired by Eva&Adele. Their visual actions and performative life featured the pair wearing entirely matching outfits every single day. Wearing matching outfits was another way I occasionally presented my two bodies as a single shared identity to others.
Although nothing specifically changed between the Third Identity and the shared identity periods, the thinking and the way I saw my identity massively changed introspectively. The main difference was the way I was signing emails/introducing myself had changed. I went from using my names individually to using ‘Molly and Gabby’ and then transitioning to ‘Molly&Gabby’ as a single word. The significance of this minor change was immense because it represented a change of commitment – I wanted everyone to recognise me as a single entity. So, although I didn’t fully commit to doing everything as one entity yet, I started introducing new elements of my singularity to my everyday life and my art. VALIE EXPORT for example “prefers her name rendered in all capitals, like a brand” (Kennedy, R. 2016), by changing up our names and how I presented myself it was a form of branding. I was branding and presenting myself as this singular shared identity.
Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard never used the term shared identity; however, I heavily related to their experiences. “When we collaborate with someone external, neither party is trying to change their essence through that collaboration, whereas ours is very much about changing our individual essences into one singular entity” (Forsyth, I. and Pollard, J. 2017). Forsyth and Pollard were presenting and being acknowledged as one singular entity; this was similar to how I was beginning to feel. Additionally, they never referred to themselves as a collaboration; they were singular, and they were only collaborating with external people. At this point, I didn’t relate to collaboration within my bodies; however, externally I would similarly see it as a collaboration. I felt like one singular shared identity, so my bodies weren’t collaborating; at this point, they were two bodies with a shared identity that produced work as one. All work was beginning to be made as one entity; both bodies took an active role in everything from sewing to photography. The only separation provided to the University was ‘separated’ sketchbooks, which in hindsight became redundant due to my two bodies working on both sketchbooks which created a falsified separation.
Although shared identity made it easier to explain how I felt the actual definition went against my work IGI defines shared identity as “[…] the extent which an individual identifies with his or her team members when working in a global virtual setting” (IGI Global. n.d.). This definition implies the identifying to other individuals is on a scale; the word ‘extent’ suggests that it isn’t a set standard of what a shared identity is. Additionally, this definition means two or more individuals are coming together; this was a specific issue I had with the Third Identity. Third identity heavily relied on the two individual artists having separated aspects to themselves, and only when collaborating is the Third Identity revealed. At this point, my original separate identities were dissolving, and I only ever felt like the combined identity. To use shared identity as a description of my identity is problematic due to current definitions being contradictory.