I’ve been working on my ‘Self-i’ project for the last few of months. last September I embarked on an MA Fine art degree `( I know – oldest student in town ) to try to push my art and to give me the next two years of just experimenting with my ideas. If I’m being honest, I would have hated the self-i images only a year ago as they didn’t fit in with my purist / classical ( with an edge ) style of photography, I would have thought that they were too contrived but I’ve been pushing myself out of my comfort zone for this project and really trying to experiment, I’m actually enjoying it and looking forward to experimenting with other projects in the future. Because selfie’s are mainly the domain of social media and live online and this module is about curating a site specific exhibition, I thought it fitting that the exhibition should be a virtual exhibition in an online gallery and promoted via social media. One of the many good things that have come out of this project is that I have taught myself some new creative tools; building Virtual Reality worlds / spaces which I’m looking forward to using in future projects. To view the Virtual Gallery here’s the link https://ianphillipsmclaren.com/vg/ and to view the images from the project here’s that link https://ianphillipsmclaren.com/self-i/ see below for the project text.
My previous project Gwen – ‘Did I Want To Be Here ? examined dementia as a state of being and attempted to reflect that state using ideas about layering and identity. This current work has led me deeper into themes related to memory, identity and specifically the construction of self in our visual culture.
The question, Who are you and how do you know? Sits central to my virtual gallery.
Framing personal identity in the context of the pursuit of perfection and an idea that there is a normal from which we fear to deviate, I want to explore the concept such as:
- Is ‘who I am only validated by approval from my peers and contemporaries?
- Do I need to distort and manipulate my image in order to gain approval?
- Does the individual start to lose their true identity by constantly presenting a curated self?
The selfie is a millennial social phenomenon. Once the sole domain of teenagers, it has now permeated our culture on a grand scale arguably distorting how we perceive ourselves and how we want to be perceived, as we turn the camera in on ourselves. Selfie’s may provide people with a sense of validation and connectedness when they see their friends pop up on their social media accounts. And then there is the great rush, the boost of dopamine we receive when someone ‘likes’ our photo.
There may be a darker side to this romance with our own constructed and selected image, a Swansea University study (www.bbcwales.com, 2018) states that selfies fuel narcissism, a sense of entitlement and the need for admiration. The selfie has been described as a desperate form of exhibitionism (Storr,W. 2017). It seemed interesting therefore to put these self-selected portraits in an exhibition that existed in a virtual realm. If they are our constructed selves, then may be putting them in a space that is constructed is a way of turning up the gain. Asking the audience to reflect deeply as they leave (come out of the construct) rather than during the experience on the reality of self.
In essence selfies, it could be argued are a form of self-portrait and the West has a rich history in this respect. It starts with Albrecht Dürer signing his famous self-portrait age 28 in the early 1500’s. Unwittingly, (or was it? We will never know) he started an enduring cultural phenomenon that has found form in all artistic media across the globe, that of depicting your face as the place that you reside (your self). In the creation of a selfie artist and subject are fused (literally and metaphorically). We take a form that has traditions and accepted boundaries and then create many copies of our self. I wonder if these copies are a way of saying I am here. Here is my self.
When Van Gogh and Kahlo painted self-portraits, it was to interpret their emotional landscape. Van Gogh even depicted his self as a chair. However, more commonly now self-portraits captured on Digital Media serves the purpose of capturing “our best life” – perfect, the ideal, no matter how far removed that image may be from reality.
For whatever reason, there seems to be an impulse for humans to make images of themselves. There is a common connection between painted self-portraits, photographic self-portraits and the humble selfie, arguably they all refer to the ‘human condition’ of self, the “who are you”.
By using the mechanism of self-portraits, I want to capture the subject’s exploration of themselves. Their face and body language – capturing what is happening, their sense of self at that specific moment in time. How do they manifest the ‘ego’ part of identity, seen as the ‘ideal self’, the image that they want to be put out into the world? The part that is putting on a show for other people. Do they acknowledge they are putting on an act or do they actually believe their own act?
With the proliferation of Smart Phones with high definition cameras and the abundance and easy to use software, the norm today is to retouch and put photos through filters and textures to make us look different or better in our own eyes. My intention was to experiment with a variety of processes and techniques to explore my interpretation of filters and textures in this respect.