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What is your Artistic Identity?

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

Do you feel tied to your job role or title? Do you think it defines who you are as a person? Have you felt pressure to define your practice or art?

These are really common thoughts, especially if you are just starting out after graduating - questions about how you plan to present yourself to the world and to the rest of the industry.


Mel McCabe studied Dance alongside me at Leeds Beckett University and has a huge passion for travel, spoken word poetry and theatre. She is interested in talking about our consumer habits and the current political landscape, and spends a lot of her time educating herself on matters including LGBTQIA+ and class systems.


As we caught up and talked about our transition from creative student to graduate of dance, we began to dip our toes into the importance of our artistic identities, examining how much weight we put on our job title and how important it is. We also spend time talking about consumer habits and building your online brand to represent your identity.


I asked Mel the following questions.


Questions with Mel McCabe


ES: I've been thinking about how we define ourselves and the work we do, what does the term 'Artistic Identity' mean to you?


MM: To me it means a separate part of myself than the one others can access. Sometimes I take out a part of me for others to view once it’s ready, or when it’s requested. Occasionally that’s poetry or movement work. But it’s almost always something that is scheduled or meaningful. Some of that is because I find it difficult to access my creative and artistic identity without a cause or purpose, because otherwise I have to give it to the world without asking. Maybe ‘artistic identity’ means permission, to me. 


What do you think about the weight we put on our job titles? Where should we place our worth?


I don’t think we should have to put our worth in our job title. It should be the meaningful work we do, the simple gestures we do for others (or ourselves).

Growth; I’m often not interested in the everyday work people do, but I’m more interested in the way they spend their freetime and how that nourishes them as a person. Some people are lucky to have a meaningful role, though. And I think it’s okay to have a lot of weight on your job title, but then you’re at risk of success and failure in one aspect of your life ruling over you. Don’t forget you can be multiple. 



Do you feel a need to have a title? What does it do for your artistic practice?


I think it can be a guide, for some people. It can give you a soapbox to stand on, and clarification that what you’re doing has a purpose. This obviously comes from stereotypes and work we’ve already experienced or consumed, though. A guidebook, for sure. But not rules; that’s the fun of it all isn’t it? 



Why is shaping your online identity important? How have you shaped yours?


I have shaped mine to show a colourful, politically aware, happy part of my life. It is a space where I project happiness; but this is more for myself as a diary of successes to get me through the dark times. Sometimes this is dangerous though, I think I’ve made the mistake of forgetting the darkness within the colour. I do use twitter as a way of consuming other views and commentary than I wouldn’t usually get from those around me. I think it’s an important use of social media, but it can make it seem like I’m shouting loud about voices I don’t necessarily entirely understand. 



Mel McCabe is a spoken word poet and avid reader with a passion for theatre and movement. Check out her book recommendations over on Instagram @melaniejaynereads and her colourful happy space on her personal instagram @meljmccabe.


#dance #artisticidentity

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