The Identity Box - Art in Education Project was developed in response to the murder of Stephen Lawrence in South East London in April 1993. The project was intended to question the notion of a 'fixed identity'. The 'I am = you are Not' equation. Since then the project has been delivered in Sub-Saharan Africa, Aboriginal Australia, Northern Ireland, Former Yugoslavia and the Middle East. The process of construction is documented in the 'Stages of Making' pdf, which will enable teachers to demonstrate, how students can create their own Identity Box.
On the website 80:20 Educating and Acting for a Better World and in the article Art in Contentious Spaces, by John Johnston (see bibliography below), the contexts and pedagogy behind work undertaken with 80:20 in Northern Ireland are examined. The Box Portraits project, he states, 'explores issues of group identity and questions notions of identity and 'the group' which can lead to abuse of its position'. The project took place in one of the many estates in East Belfast, which outwardly reflected collective political identities. Johnston examines the use of the box as a 'secure space, a private container' and the process of construction. The artworks negate any single view of identity, through the use of translucent cells and the viewpoints needed for their display.
The Identity Box project presents possibilities, which, through the process of layering and use of symbolism, question the term identity. The use of symbols, photographs or word/s Johnston states 'presents the possibility of re-presenting, of looking beyond the 'skin' toward the internal. That which makes us who we are as opposed to what we think we are when we look into the mirror. The internal cells – images, texts, photographs symbols, combine to form layers – a record of the process of making. The finished works are difficult to see as one object or image. They are also impossible to view from one single standpoint. The viewer is asked to change their perspective in order to understand the complex nature of the individual. Therefore the process of making and presenting the boxes is crucial'. Johnston concludes 'Ultimately the Identity Box acts as vehicle for learning beyond the image and exploring notions of self'.