The workers of the old ironworks were closely associated with their jobs. They were just workers – proud, significant, employed. People who did their share and had a clear role. As workers, they belonged to a distinct social class and with this came certain dictated social expectations. They were part of the collective force that laid important groundwork for our modern welfare society. The workers – men and boys – were, of course, also individuals with their own hopes and destinies. Often, they had families at home. Families with women and girls at the forefront, keeping another machinery alive, and this gave them an identity: the home, the garden, the crops, the household chores, the caregiving. The framework of a person’s lot in life was largely determined by gender and class. Women fought to be viewed as individuals in their own right and to get the opportunity to vote and influence the world around them. Today, it may seem obvious that human beings should not be limited to factors such as their gender or origin, but that is not the reality we live in. What makes it possible and what prevents people from being treated equally and given the same dignity and rights? What tools are used to give different groups – ethnicities, minorities, social classes, ages, genders – the same rights, in theory and in practice? The concept of identity is closely linked with human rights and with mutual respect for other human beings. It is related to the idea of tolerance.
Identity is about the individual, one’s own personal sphere and all the rights, obligations and potential therein. But it also extends outside the borders of one’s own body and mind. Identity can be linked to collective, cultural and territorial borders. A place, city, region, country, continent, political territory or zone. A place’s identity is based on the soul or spirit of the place, its genius loci – the unique prevailing atmosphere of a specific place that permeates the mood there and often relates to its history. From a centralized perspective, mining districts are often perceived as antiquated, undeveloped and uninteresting areas, at least if their economic resources have run dry. Today, many old mining districts seek new identities and the value of being associated with – along with their older legacy – something that holds the community together and identifies it in this new era. In many places, new residents and groups of people have arrived, bringing fresh energy and momentum. Identity is a two-sided coin. On the one hand, identity can be restricted, imposed and enforced – borne by social constructions, prejudices and preconceptions in which the individual is defined by others. On the other hand, identity can serve as a confirmation and a key to security, belonging, pride and freedom. Identity can be about self-image and self-actualization, but is always influenced by – and in turn influences – the outside world. Identity can be the bearer of norms and barriers, it can lead to polarization and paint the world in black and white. But it can also move along a grey scale, creating conflicts or bringing consensus. Identity is not static. It is something that is in constant motion. Avesta Art 2017 focuses on identity from a number of perspectives. Collective and individual, issues of culture, history, nationality, ethnicity, gender, power and norms are explored through various expressions and techniques.