My work deals with the social management of identity. Not necessarily identity in the sense of “who am I,” but rather, the construct of “who can I be” given the inherent conditions of the so-called context I live in.
I had never given the idea of “identity”—let alone my own identity—much thought until I migrated to the US in 1998 and my most official source of identification became an alien registration number. Quite sobering, though easy enough to laugh away when put into its due bureaucratic perspective. Much more poignant was the fact that I arrived here with a firmly rooted background, including a good sense of who I was and what I stood for, only to realize I could not transplant that person to my new habitat in its full integrity. In order to properly function in this new society I was about to call home, I had to adjust to its (foreign) social structures, values and belief systems; whether they were correlating with the ones I already harbored or not. It became an interesting journey in debating which new values to adopt, which old beliefs to shed and which “idea of me” I was aiming for. At first this was hardly noticeable, as there were only superficial habits to change, but the longer I stayed, the deeper the (re)considered values at stake became.
Now, after 18 years, I realize I have become a tourist in both places, my home country and my new home base alike. If I were to define my current identity in social terms I’d call myself an “in-between.” If I had to define this identity on a more individual level I’d have to declare it the most conscious “state of me” it has ever been.
As both my theoretical research and my personal observations determined that the pillars for constructing identity are continuously evolving and can radically differ in space and time, the moving image (video) became my main medium of choice. I focused my thought process on the idea that people should build their own values and belief system based on what their integrity considers true, and not just take for granted what their current environment has already decided for them. This led me to descriptive life journeys; a visual language based on layers, veiled imagery, ambiguous space; and the suggestion that we should never lose sight of the gray zones when exploring meaning…
Sieglinde Van Damme was born in Leuven, Belgium. Shortly after obtaining a Master in Economic Sciences at her hometown university she moved to the US. Upon arrival, she decided to follow her hidden passion and pursue art classes right away. While raising her young family she acquired a Certificate in Art Studio from UC Berkeley Extension and in 2013 she graduated with an MFA in Photography from San Jose State University.
Sieglinde has been an exhibiting artist since 2002, focused on video art installations, digital photography and 19th Century Photo Processes. Her career includes six major awards/nominations, over 50 solo and group exhibitions (US and international) and numerous speaking engagements.