Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.


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#Selfie post 2

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.

I do not own a cell phone, so use a Rebel.  Sure enough, even when I'm the one taking the picture of me I close my eyes to make myself invisible.  Not squirming, I think.

I do not own a cell phone, so use a Rebel. Sure enough, even when I’m the one taking the picture of me I close my eyes to make myself invisible. Not squirming, I think.

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?”

Round one.  Always an indication of how the fight will go.  I need to make it to twenty....

Round one. Always an indication of how the fight will go. I need to make it to twenty….

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:

blurred names & avatars for privacy reasons...

blurred names & avatars for privacy reasons…

And so the 12-week journey begins, with James Franco, the Oxford English, a Unicorn, Larry Jensen, and some squirming.

yep, squirming.  eyes open means you can see me.  Here we go....

Yep, squirming. eyes open means you can see me. Here we go….


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#Selfie 1: Right then.

Leafs and St Louis Blues are skating like mad 2.5 feet above my head, with a soundtrack announcer who could clearly like the Leafs to tie it up & stay in the game.  2nd period, 13 minutes to go.

Blues just scored

Blues just scored

I’m writing in a local bar so I can get some distance from the #Selfie project that so dominates my studio.  I’m having a very good time digging in to define with paint, music and written language what it is about selfies that I find so abrasive.  It’s difficult to admit to intolerance, but I do.  I admit it with the caveat that I GET it:  if I’m intolerant, I’d better damn well be prepared to dig in and articulate exactly WHY I so resist and revile the selfie. By producing and publishing my own. Ow.

ikes...

As an artist I believe I am required to identify and explore my own intolerances.  To work with what is abrasive and uncomfortable.

One of the St. Louis Blue’s players is pounding the hell out of a Toronto player.

I couldn't be less interested.

I couldn’t be less interested.  This is not the same as intolerance.

Many indigenous peoples have felt, when faced with the cameras of apparently benign foreigners (some Mayans still refuse to have their image copied and used by anyone), that a photo contains part of the soul of the person photographed.  Mississipi artist James W. Bailey believes this too, and addresses his internal conflict this way:

I hold a religious belief, probably inherited from my paternal Mississippi grandmother, who was 1/4 Choctaw Indian, and who was extremely distrustful of photography, that photography, more than any other art form, has the ability to capture a living element of life, a flashpoint of the soul if you will. …  When such photographic images are taken, the only thing the photographer can do to make the universe right with what he or she has done is to place the photograph, which I believe to be a living organism, into a context of positive growth….

The great photographers, whether they know it or not, are photographers who have taken stolen elements of life and have placed those living substances into a context where the photographically captured life force has been encouraged toward positive growth.

Are we as careful with our own images of ourselves as he is on our behalf?

Are we as careful with our own images of ourselves as he is on our behalf?

So in I go, straight to the coarse sandpaper. My rules so far are these: 1. I work with and publish only images I take by myself of myself. 2. I publish each one first on social media before I use it in painting, writing or song. 3. I include whatever the response is in the work that develops.  Including zero response. 4. I ask everyone I know what they think of the selfies phenomenon. 5. Be unfailingly honest and up front about whatever vulnerability I feel throughout the whole process.

Show opens in June, in Owen Sound.  It will include performance art, music, and a small hand-made book which will document the process of building it.  I’m also booking it into a tour – through galleries, highschools, colleges & universities, museums & clubs. I’ll keep you posted.

hmmm.

hmmm.