This show project has turned into a kind of Selfie Pilgrimage for me. I must say, my initial resistance has been a challenge to overcome – I DO so resist, especially when reading articles like this one by James Franco (The Meanings of the Selfie, New York Times, December 2013) who rationalizes his recently acquired selfie habit thus,
a well-stocked collection of selfies seems to get attention. …hell, it’s what everyone wants: attention. Attention is power.
Maybe for James Franco it’s power, but I truly don’t think that’s at the core of our collective behaviour.
So I dig and write and paint, and read. This morning I woke to a kind of epiphany about what could be at the root of Selfie on social media. Here’s a journal excerpt, which will likely end up in the show booklet in some form,
Selfies have steadily been on the increase since the first use of the term (Australia) in 2002 & became universal in 2012. Oxford English Dictionary made the term it’s “word of the year” in 2013. Could this be a barometer for the increasing divide between people because of a kind of culturally cultivated distrust of intimacy? We are also experiencing the increasing dissolution of traditional forms of relationship and partnership – both personally and with the institutions we once trusted (govt, banks, corporations), which may have created a vaccuum at the personal level. Maybe these cultural shifts have also changed the questions we’re asking ourselves on a personal level…
The question ‘who am I’, has traditionally been answered in the past by describing how you are related to something or someone, “Peter’s wife; Katie’s Mother; Richard’s Teacher; Jim’s Daughter; Sarah’s Boss; Paul’s Friend”, or even by what you do professionally, which is a different form of relationship “A cellist; an artist; a bus driver; an author; a councillor; a conductor, a mechanic; a carpenter”.
It’s a different question in social media circles.
“I got ‘Unicorn’!, which mythical creature are you?”
This answers a question for me about why I’m painting my own hands in interaction. I think #Selfie behavior could be an examination of our relationship with ourselves.
Each time a selfie is posted it tells a truth, shows a piece of soul, offers a clue, and a question: “who am I?” or with chronic selfie posters, “who am I, now?” But what does that question actually mean? How can we Be separate and distinct from our interactions – with partners, kids, colleagues, parents, friends, job?
So, for me, my hands. They are my job, my form of expression, an amplification of my speech, a means of articulation. They represent two sides of my engagement with the world and my work – my dominant right hand is skilled, trained in the finely tuned crafts of drawing and using a cello bow. I can write with it – it knows letters and words. It’s often TOO skilled, too trained for a task I want to complete – a drawing that is direct and raw; the ability to touch an object and feel it’s shape and texture without interference from what is ‘known’. My left hand is more honest, therefore, and I rely upon it to take me places that can change my mind and my perspective.
Together they are erotic, aggressive, tender, bewildered, compassionate, protected, open or closed to experience. I see them and work with them much much more than I see and work with my face. Here’s what Larry Jensen wrote in response to the first hand selfie I posted. I so love this, L:
And so the 12-week journey begins, with James Franco, the Oxford English, a Unicorn, Larry Jensen, and some squirming.