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What happens to identity in the postmodern age? You should draw on feminist or post-colonial critiques to discuss the work of a choreographer or artist of your choice

Contemporary Western society is now functioning in a state of constant flux. A person's desire or attempt to pinpoint a stable and defined personal identity in this post-modern era is subject to the difficulty of changing fashions, new perspectives, and conflicting desires. The constant hyperactive barrage of media influences, now commonplace in Western society, provides a plethora of choice and desire. Individuals, groups and communities can now choose to alter their look, beliefs and complete sense of self-hood, in accord with the changing images they see before them. Popular culture becomes a commodity that can be produced, exhibited and consumed, influencing in some way the identity of individuals. The issue of pinpointing a personal identity is further problematised by the ensuing globalised nature of the planet. Cultures are intermingling with cultures in a transnational mishmash where the nature of the authentic or the absolute has either deteriorated or shifted.

To try to understand the position of identity in the postmodern age, this study will focus on the changing image of a popular media personality. A consideration of the celebrity stardom of Madonna, a woman the Rolling Stones consider to be the world's most famous woman (Schulze et al, 1993:15) will provide an insight into the ambivalent nature of the person in the contemporary Western world. By looking at post-colonial ideas of the 'other', I aim to pitch Madonna as a symbol of a globalised identity that is fragmented and commodified. More specifically, I will focus on the influence Indian culture has had on Madonna in one of her many re-worked popular images.

Madonna, as we see is capitalising on her ability to attract through the exotic imagery of herself. This, however, destabalises her image and identity and she becomes disembodied from her origin again. She is no longer the Material Girl or the Madonna of the film Evita. Re-modeling her image is like her image-identity moving house. Even her use of henna outside its traditional culture-specific setting, marks her, to use Edward Said's term, as an 'other' (Said, 1995). Although Madonna may present herself all painted in this cross-cultural fashion she can never quite be at home in that identity as it does not originate from her culture. This raises the question of whether a pure identity has something to do with a pure origin.

Essentially the post-modern identity is a crisis of identity if one is considering it in terms of satisfaction. It is an unsatisfactory mode of behaviour that never ceases to want to change. Each change just brings the desire for something new more extreme, more shocking and more controversial.  The image of Madonna can only be presented to a mass-audience through the media forms she uses. This leads to a one-sided view of her identity that is tainted during the delivery of media messaging and the way Madonna may be framed by the media. An audience will be forever perplexed to find and pinpoint her identity if it simply relies upon the images presented through the media. Television, print, radio, film and music all present in different ways and the voices of media commentators will always dress up an image to play into the sentiments and desires of consumer culture. Robert Miklitsch's remarks make very clear the thought surrounding Madonna that "One has to wonder whether any identity, parodic or otherwise, can be said to be constituted before or outside the logic of capital" (Miklitsch, 1998:108). According to Miklitsch, and of which I will agree, every 'body' is a commodity sign and there is no way of escaping the effect of postmodern capitalist culture (Miklitsch, 1998:109) as we become spectators of each other in a globalised economy. Madonna's image and identity is, in postmodern Western society, no more than a mask of re-worked images that are driven by the desire for something 'new'. Madonna is an icon of consumption for postmodern Westernized capitalism. She is the iconic 'Material Girl' who reflects the very nature of identity that everyone in a consumer culture is comprised of. Just as her identity is in a constant state of flux and change, so is modern Western society as a whole. 

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