My work deals with the social management of identity. Not necessarily identity in the sense of “who am I”, but rather the investigation 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.
Now, after almost 15 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 value 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 lead 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 (2013)
Sieglinde Van Damme was born in Leuven, Belgium. She holds a Masters Degree in Economic Sciences from the Catholic University of Leuven (K.U.Leuven) since 1996. For her thesis she researched the dynamics surrounding price structures on the market for paintings. Following her thesis defense, she was selected to publish an extract in a Belgian economic newspaper and gave a late night TV interview about Art and Economics.
After a brief career in Marketing Analysis and a position as research assistant at the Economic Faculty of her university, Sieglinde moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in Spring 1998. Immediately, she started pursuing studio art classes and she received the Certificate in Art Studio from UC Berkeley Extension in 2002. After graduating, her main focus shifted to video with sound and video/multi-media installations.
In addition, she also developed a body of work consisting of prints (digital and alternative photo media) derived from her videos and other lens-based work. Sieglinde Van Damme received her MFA from San Jose State University.