The Identity Exhibition

1 - 30 June 2020

According to Sigmund Freud, human identity is complex and has more than a single component. In his famous psychoanalytic theory of personality, identity is composed of three elements. These three elements of personality known as the id, the ego, and the superego, which work together to create complex human behaviours and form our identities.


It is broadly agreed by most, certain parts of your character are more primal and might force you to follow up on your most fundamental desires. Different pieces of your character work to neutralise these desires and endeavour to set you fit in with the expectations of the real world.


The pillar of one’s id is driven by the pleasure principle, which strives for immediate gratification of all desires, wants, and needs. If these needs are not satisfied immediately, the result is a state anxiety or tension.


For example, an increase in hunger or thirst should produce an immediate attempt to eat or drink.


However, immediately fulfilling these needs is not always realistic or even possible. If we were ruled entirely by the pleasure principle, we might find ourselves grabbing the things that we want out of other people's hands to satisfy our own cravings. This sort of behaviour would be both disruptive and socially unacceptable. According to Freud, the id tries to resolve the tension created by the pleasure principle through the use of primary process thinking, which involves forming a mental image of the desired object as a way of satisfying the need.


The next pillar ego operates based on the reality principle, which strives to satisfy the id's desires in realistic and socially appropriate ways. The reality principle weighs the costs and benefits of an action before deciding to act upon or abandon impulses. In many cases, the id's impulses can be satisfied through a process of delayed gratification, the ego will eventually allow the behaviour, but only in the appropriate time and place.

Freud compared the id to a horse and the ego to the horse's rider. The horse provides the power and motion, yet the rider provides direction and guidance. Without its rider, the horse may simply wander wherever it wished and do whatever it pleased. The rider instead gives the horse directions and commands to guide it in the direction he or she wishes to go.


For example, imagine that you are stuck in a long meeting at work. You find yourself growing increasingly hungry as the meeting drags on. While the id might compel you to jump up from your seat and rush to the break room for a snack, the ego guides you to sit quietly and wait for the meeting to end. Instead of acting upon the primal urges of the id, you spend the rest of the meeting imagining yourself eating a cheeseburger. Once the meeting is finally over, you can seek out the object you were imagining and satisfy the demands of the id in a realistic and appropriate manner.


The last component of Identity is the superego. The superego is the aspect of identity that holds all of our internalised moral standards and ideals that we acquire from both parents and society. This is our sense of right and wrong. The superego acts to perfect and civilize our behaviour. It works to suppress all unacceptable urges of the id and struggles to make the ego act upon idealistic standards rather that upon realistic principles. The superego is present in the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious.



According to Freud, the key to a healthy identity is a balance between the id, the ego, and the superego. The brief of this exhibition is to explore this idea of identity and the results of its balance or imbalance in one’s self, one’s life and or wider society.


Exhibition: 1st - 30th June 2020

Location: Online