These were two of the topics that came up in the discussion I had with John Walter – a modern artist whose work encompasses a vast array of mediums (including painting, performance, and video), and who I had been interviewing in relation to a documentary I was making about the workings of the creative mind. He was down in Liverpool for the opening of his exhibition Alien Sex Club, and I got a chance to talk to him in the serene (if slightly overcast) environment of the Bluecoat gardens.
Our chat moved on to themes of identity, and he began by talking about how the self is a "cultural construct", and that we "accumulate self over time". As we've seen from FACT's exhibition Follow, this sense of self can derive (sometimes exclusively) from the online sphere. He went on to say: "I could be quoting Ryan Garry, then I could be quoting Niamh O'Malley and then I could be quoting [Francisco] Goya..." – he states that everything we see as part of our identity (or 'self') comes from someone else, often someone we admire or idolise. How else would celebrity endorsements work?
And just as we take in and assimilate parts of people's identities we admire, we also broadcast ourselves to the world – though the degree to which our online selves are authentic is highly dubious. As John says: "we perform our identities within sexuality, within gender, within religion, within ethnicity". And, one might add, within every other aspect of our selves (money, or power, or talent, or knowledge...). Can there be a better word to encapsulate the social age than 'performance'?
Follow is open at FACT until 21 Feruary 2016. See it Tuesday - Sunday, 11am - 6pm, free entry,
This audio clip was filmed in relation to 'The Creative Process', a film about artists and creativity, which premiered at the Liverpool Small Cinema.