Reflecting on Selfie-Reflecting~

Are you in your selfie?

After this week’s discussion on selfies, that’s been the question I’ve been mulling over in my mind. And, to be honest, I’ve no answers–just more to wonder about.

Reflections on Reflections

I’ve already said much about selfies myself but I was interested to hear what my peers had to say about the emerging genre of digital art & creation. More, I was interested in what people thought of the idea of selfies being a form of communication.

To many, that seemed readily apparent.

Selfies contain messages. They are messages.

At least, they can be.

Something I didn’t necessarily connect but that others did is how this added element of communication seems to necessitate that selfies always be a social act.

Can selfies be keepsakes? Or, must they always be public in order to have a dialogue? Does the selfie’s communication matter as much when it’s only communicating with you? In my opinion, that kind of communication is the most important and speaks to that level of self-reflection Jerry Saltz seemed to be getting at in his article on the art history of the selfie.

Still, what was perhaps of even more interest than all of this was some comments made earlier on about the “illusion” of life selfies seem to reference or comment on:

(Check out the whole story)

When viewed in this light, selfies become ways to alter the perception of the self but also the perception of the world. More, they becomes a means to take back some control and also assert control. This, to me, speaks to the empowering nature of the selfie (something I discuss more in-depth in my prior post). Selfies and the acts of taking them are not just some new digital extensions of vanity. Dismissing them as such not only mis-characterizes them but ignores so much potential, so much information about what it is and means to be human.

Selfies are becoming the language of us. I mean, we’re using ourselves to convey the experience of life. Our experiences are in dialogue with each other with the advent of the selfies in ways they never were before.

That matters. That shouldn’t be dismissed.

Do You Look at Me Different Now? #SelfieUnselfie

The other idea I’ve been totally captured by this week is that of the unselfie. Perhaps the concept has been peddled before but, in light of my own findings on the subject of the selfie as of late, it’s such an arresting idea. It makes me pause, stop and think about not just how I present myself to the world but how I don’t.

Again, as I mentioned in my previous post on selfies, I believe selfies are not only a burgeoning language but a very vulnerable one. I mean, we’re putting our faces out there for people to interact with, yes, but also for them (our messages, too) to be critiqued. It’s an incredibly vulnerable thing to do, an aspect of the selfie I don’t believe is always appreciated.

Anyway, that said, are selfies really all that vulnerable when they are rather staged and selective? Would a picture of some other part of our lives–excluding our faces–convey the same messages abut us that our selfies do? Is that important?

The #SelfieUnselfie Project seeks to explore those very questions:

To be honest, for all my selfies I’ve taken over the years, I found this project difficult. I looked around the spaces I typically occupy–searching for myself–and wondered if I was anywhere to be found?

Then, I realized I was looking for the girl in my selfies. Not me. Not the person behind the selfie.

Don’t get me wrong–sometimes those two people meet in one. But, oft, they live separate lives. Similar, yes. But separate till they merge in the moment of the selfie. Till the experience and the act of the selfie synthesize them. (Does that make sense? Or, does anyone else feel that way? It’s not that my selfies aren’t me or aren’t truthful depictions of me but, well, the truth is more of spectrum.)

Anyway, what I kept returning to was the bedside table. My bedside table. Dr. Zamora mentioned possibly sharing her bedside table as her unselfie and I was and still am taken with that idea. On my bedside table are the items I obviously want closest to me when I first wake up and, again, when I finally lay my head down. To me, those items embodied, well, me. They’re the most integral parts of me not physically a part of me.

(I shared my #selfieunselfie post on Instagram but wasn’t able to fit everything I had to say about the topic there but it’s all here~)

I post many pictures of myself online and in digital spaces. This selfie is typical of the ones I usually share (in fact, I did post it here on the gram a few months back~). Face larger than life. Skin smooth like porcelain and glowing as if from within. Hint of pink. A light burning low in the background. Not a shiny hair out of place. My eyes staring at you but not–not really. They look through. They look more glass-like. More doll-like.

I look like a doll. Painted smile and all.

Always pretty. Always happy.

What you don’t see in any of the pictures I post are the dark circles from too many sleepless nights. You don’t see the anxiety usually alight in my eyes during the day. Don’t see the clock I always feel ticking away, just behind it all.

You can’t see my bedside table or you’d know me.

On my bedside table, you can see I keep a bottle of melatonin, a half-empty bottle of NyQuil, and an essential oil to induce sleep–my oil diffuser (glowing my favorite purple) just behind my shrine of offerings to sleep. On the wall behind, you can see the shadow of the dreamcatcher that hangs from my bedpost, its black feathers just in frame. Anything worth a shot and if good dreams come too, all the better~

Sleep has always been a problem for me, something I dread even during the day (if you have trouble sleeping, you get the stress). I never know if I’ll get to sleep that night. When paired with my anxiety about time and never having enough–for what? I don’t know–I think it’s easier to understand the other keepsakes. Along with my sleep aids, I have a ball of sticky tack, a fidget cube, and another stress-reliever shaped like a little white kitten to squish. Small stimulants and sensation-inducing toys to preoccupy my senses from otherwise overwhelming me. I’ll even worry the little, purple stone heart beside my clock–though it’s actually a gift from someone I love dearly and can’t be with the way I’d like right now. So, it’s more of a small piece of them to keep close to me.

Anyway, there’s a lot of my anxieties laid bare on my bedside table that you would never see reflected in my usual selfies. If you’re into close readings, you can even see hints of my forgetfulness (perhaps addled by lack of sleep >.>)–a pair of earrings, my bottom ones things I always forget to take out before I go to bed, and my birth control, just peeking out from behind my shrine of sleep aids, close on-hand so I don’t forget.

Selfies don’t usually share these parts of ourselves, despite them being integral to ourselves. (If my melatonin weren’t right there tonight, I’d be at a loss, you know?) Though, I’m not sure if it’s strictly because we want to hide these things from other people. I mean, I’m not ashamed of any of the items I keep on my bedside table. Nor, am I ashamed of my usual selfies. One’s just easier, maybe, to share? There are less questions to answer–if anyone even cares to ask any. Maybe one is more difficult to share, though, because it asks people to care more deeply and that’s not always an easy request to make or meet.

What do you think?

Can you see me in both images? More, do you see me differently now that you’ve seen the other?

My Make

(Want to find out more about the #SelfieUnselfie project and installation or find out how to post and share one of your own? Check out the Make Bank on the project.)

Unreflections on Unreflections

When I compare my selfie to my unselfie, I find myself looking for connections more than what disconnects one from the other. Like, I know both have hearts which were both gifts from people I love and miss dearly. (The heart necklace I’m wearing in the selfie was a gift from a therapist whose help and kindness really touched me and have made all the difference so many years later.)

I don’t believe the purpose of this project is to separate us from ourselves so much as unite us. Provide a clearer picture. Emphasize that no sum of parts is greater than the whole they create. Different but not so much as they seem~

But enough about me. Let me tell you, this selfie unit has made me tired of me lol

When you see your selfie and your unselfie beside each other, what do you find? What do you see? Are you really as different from yourself as you think?

****

Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

Fave DDA:

*For #DDA156 (one I submitted), I chose to share a poem from a mentor book I’ve been reading for my advanced poetry writing course this semester. The book is Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim and I’ve recommended in on my blog before, in the Goodies section. I think the poem relates well to the subject of the #selfieunselfie. At least, it captures the idea of duality and of reconciling with our own duality in order to “let the light shine through”, if you will.

Twit 1 & Twit 2

*Btw I think my Google Arts & Culture selfie-match is spectacular, like spot-on:

Goodies

*Another DDA I complete this week involves me writing another short story to add to my unsettling Killing It Tag. If you like spooky or disturbing little story inspired by bot nonsense, I highly recommend checking it out ^.^ Also, this week’s story has to do with sight and vision which is also related to the selfie. Go figure~

img_5913

Unsettling tales straight out of my head to yours~

(*This is an acrylic cut-out that is a part of a project I am working on it metals that you will hopefully get to see soon btw~)

*Cool and informative article on memes and their connection to Neo-Dadaism, for anyone interested on the topic like me. (Thanks @rissacandiloro)

*A series I’ve been reading that I’ve really been enjoying is V.E. Schwab’sShades of Magic series. It’s her first adult fiction series and it’s excellent. It’s all about magic and travelling between worlds, finding the one that you fit into. The characters are distinct and enjoyable–both to root for and to hate. My favourite character is Holland, in case anyone wants to know~ (He’s kind of awful but I love him <3)

*Has anyone watched Altered Carbon on Netflix yet? I hear it’s good but I’d love a recommendation~

*Also, if you aren’t planning to see or if you haven’t watched Black Panther yet, why not? It was a great movie with some very compelling characters and I highly recommend seeing it if you haven’t yet. For anyone who’s hesitant or skeptical because of the hype, I want you to know I was too but the hype was real~ (Don’t let that sway you from checking out the flick)

~Till NextTime~

Advertisements

Selfie-Reflecting~

(I’ve rocked a few regrettable interesting looks, huh???)

Images are moments and if moments are experiences, then what experience does the “selfie” capture?

What is the selfie? What does it represent?

Society Says….

Well, that depends.

When it comes to social perceptions, the selfie, like most new digital media, typically gets a bad rep. What did you think society would say???

According to one article in Jezebel, by Erin Gloria Ryan, “Selfies aren’t empowering; they’re a high tech reflection of the f*cked up way society teaches women that their most important quality is their physical attractiveness.” and “Selfies aren’t empowering little sources of pride, nor are they narcissistic exercises by silly, conceited b*tches. They’re a logical technically enabled response to being brought up to think that what really matters is if other people think you’re pretty.”Wow. Did you catch that double “not empowering”?

But, is this a fair assessment of the selfie? Is there nothing redeemable about this new digital form?

The article Ryan write hers in response to begs to differ. In “Selfies Are Good for Girls”, author Rachel Simmons says of selfies,“If you write off the endless stream of posts as image-conscious narcissism, you’ll miss the chance to watch girls practice promoting themselves—a skill that boys are otherwise given more permission to develop, and which serves them later on when they negotiate for raises and promotions.” More, Simmons asserts, “The selfie suggests something in picture form—I think I look [beautiful] [happy] [funny] [sexy]. Do you?—that a girl could never get away with saying. It puts the gaze of the camera squarely in a girl’s hands, and along with it, the power to influence the photo’s interpretation.” This idea that the selfie can be a means of self-promotion and new form of communication otherwise unavailable on a personal scale is echoed in an interview conducted by NPR with digital artist, Molly Soda. Soda says, “I think a selfie is a really, really positive thing, whether or not its art, it’s super positive affirmation of self-love. And taking your photo and putting it on the Internet for the world to see is an act of positivity.” And, of the selfie’s particular dialogue, she says, “When I’m scrolling on my Instagram and I see a photo of a girl that she took of herself and I know she’s feeling really good that day about herself, that makes me feel good and that makes me want to photograph myself, and I think it’s a chain reaction.”

So, which is it?

Are selfies vain, self-centered, narcissistic, self-indulgent, and exploitative at best? Or, can they be these positive, celebrations of the self–especially for women?

More, are these even the right questions we should be asking? Are they detracting or distracting from what the selfie truly represents? Or, what it could represent? We could argue a moral imperative all semester and never reach any conclusions, in my mind. More, this kind of argument reduces the selfie to nothing more or less than an extension vanity or personal expression. This kind of discussion leads nowhere, to me, and fails to adequately recognize a new genre of digital media, of digital art: The Selfie.

Where’s the Art?

In Soda’s interview, she refers to selfies as “an exploratory art form” and, when discussing whether or not the selfie is art, she refers to “the selfie culture”. Not the phenomenon. Culture. To me, the intersection of culture and exploration finds you in the heart of art. ❤

That said, as with social perceptions, perceptions in the art world typically leaned towards skeptical at best when discussing the selfie. (If we were playing “Sh*t People Say About Digital Media” bingo, I’d have “the decline of culture”, “global calamity”, “millennials”, &, to abbreviate, “tech bad” all marked off from reading some of the “less-credible” sources I came across~)

Anyway, attitudes seem to be shifting away from not even considering the selfie in the realm of art to giving it not only worthwhile consideration but even an exhibition this past year. For anyone who’s familiar with how the art world operates, that’s a huge shift. New genres–which are defined in the art world as forms that, “possess their own formal logic, with tropes and structural wisdom, and last a long time until all the problems they were created to address are addressed (different from style i.e Impressionism, Cubism, Dada)–arise very rarely and curators, art critics, art historians, and art enthusiasts tend to be lukewarm at best when it comes to new genres. (Some never warm up)

So, what’s the word on the selfie?

It seems that despite social perceptions or personal convictions, there is a “selfie-ness” that all selfies share and that is easily identifiable. We all know when we’re looking at a selfie, yeah? In “Selfies Are Art”, an article in The Atlantic that addresses both Ryan and Simmon’s articles, author Noah Berlatsky directly states, “The selfie may be good or it may be bad, but Simmons and Ryan agree that its essence is all one thing or all the other. Aberrations are to be explained away.” More, Berlastsky says, “The selfie is a deliberate, aesthetic expression—it’s a self-portrait, which is an artistic genre with an extremely long pedigree. There can be bad self-portraits and good self-portraits, but the self-portrait isn’t bad or good in itself. Like any art, it depends on what you do with it.”

In the article for the exhibition on selfies, curator Nigel Hurst, when asked if selfies are art is quoted as responding, “The simple answer to that is that everything can be art if it’s followed through by the maker with enough conviction and coherence, and also that enough people accept and believe that it’s art…We’re not saying that the slideshow of a teenager trying out various poses is as significant as a work by Rembrandt, but the art world cannot ignore this phenomenon.”

Now, it’s interesting that both Hurst and Berlatsky, unlike Simmons or Ryan, compare the selfie to a contemporary portraiture. That said, this is a fairly common comparison made. The excellent and enlightening Art Assignment channel on Youtube has a rather in-depth video on the subject, comparing self-portraits and self-taken photos to the contemporary selfie.

While a strong case is made for the selfie being an extension or an evolution of the self-portraiture genre and, certainly, being associated with such a prestigious genre with such a long history would be a boon, not everyone is of this mind–myself included.

In a Vulture article by Jerry Saltz, a case is made for why the selfie is its own distint genre, separate from traditional portraiture.

Saltz says, “These [Selfies] are not like the self-portraits we are used to. Setting aside the formal dissimilarities between these two forms—of framing, of technique—traditional photographic self-portraiture is far less spontaneous and casual than a selfie is. This new genre isn’t dominated by artists. When made by amateurs, traditional photographic self-portraiture didn’t become a distinct thing, didn’t have a codified look or transform into social dialogue and conversation. These pictures were not usually disseminated to strangers and were never made in such numbers by so many people. It’s possible that the selfie is the most prevalent popular genre ever.

Essentially, selfies are not portraits.  At least, they aren’t just portraits.

(“If both your hands are in the picture and it’s not a mirror shot, technically, it’s not a selfie—it’s a portrait.”)

Aside from technical differences–that the camera is in the hands of the photographer, always within arm’s length (making a hint of the arm a feature of most), off-center subjects, distorted or exaggerated features due to the camera lenses of most phones,–selfies convey a different meaning than a traditional self portrait or photograph.

Selfies are almost always present, too. Traditional portraiture and photography was simply incapable of that immediacy. Even if the selfie shared is from a few years back or is used in a #ThrowbackThursday post on Instagram, there is still this sense of the original posting, this sense of a moment captured to be instantly shared. Selfies are experiences meant, almost always, to be shared, whether with a small audience or a large one. This also means most selfies are not accidental. Of this, Saltz states, “Whether carefully staged or completely casual, any selfie that you see had to be approved by the sender before being embedded into a network. This implies control as well as the presence of performing, self-criticality, and irony. The distributor of a selfie made it to be looked at by us, right now, and when we look at it, we know that. (And the maker knows we know that.)”

In this way, I do find selfies to be empowering, especially to women who have been subjected to the male gaze and all that applies for all of history. Being able to control the perception of yourself, even in such a small way, is an assertion of power. Despite what Ryan says in her article, that element of control is in and of itself what makes the selfie an empowering art form. That selfies can only be responses to a societal standard already in play or that selfies can never be anything other than an extension of this need for validation from others seems like an over-generalization, to me. And, that stance does not allow for the selfie to be looked at as an art form.

In fact, as the genre has come into its own, “selfie culture” seems to be more about subverting expectations. Or, it’s about questioning expectations. Asking people to see more than is usually expected.

Selfies become more that self-portraits, then. They become invitations to a dialogue, a conversation in which we all participate.

Say What???

Now, you may say, “Kelli” or “Heltsekffkkfj” whatever the f*ck, right? (idk how you refer to me in your head, if you do) “I don’t even take selfies. How can I be a part of this ‘conversation’ you speak of??? What even kind of conversation is being carried out through selfies?”

I’m glad you asked~

See, whether or not you’ve personally taken a selfie, you’ve seen them, you know people who take them, you’ve seen people take them. Point is, you know what they are. Selfies are almost as pervasive as they are controversial. Or, controversial as they are pervasive?? Think those 2 things go hand in hand. More to the point, you’ve interacted with selfies. You’ve read them or you read them, so to speak, almost daily. I don’t know about you, but I think I’m pretty good at telling a “show-off” shot from a “I’m feeling nice today” one. There’s a different feeling a Kim K. selfie gives off than one of my co-worker Christina, staring straight into the camera with slight smile, yeah? However you categorize selfies–and I bet you do–you know there are differences, differences conveyed only in that slight smile, eyes half looking at the camera, half at some point above it, only in that superior tilt of one’s chin, that glimmer in their eye, that hint of a curvaceous figure in the mirror.

Selfies have a language and we are all fast becoming fluent in it.

Saltz says, “Selfies are our letters to the world. They are little visual diaries that magnify, reduce, dramatize—that say, ‘I’m here; look at me.'” He continues on to speak about what some of his favorite kinds of selfies are: “Everyone has their own idea of what makes a good selfie. I like the ones that metamorphose into what might be called selfies-plus—pictures that begin to speak in unintended tongues, that carry surpluses of meaning that the maker may not have known were there. Barthes wrote that such images produce what he called ‘a third meaning,’ which passes ‘from language to significance.'” Saltz likes selfies that tell stories. That speak of things beyond the literal, beyond just the self in the selfie. Things that are not spoon-fed to readers but that are still present, just below the surface. And, if you care to look, you can see them. “I’m talking about more unstable, obstinate meanings that come to the fore: fictions, paranoia, fantasies, voyeurism, exhibitionism, confessions—things that take us to a place where we become the author of another story. That’s thrilling. And something like art.”

Isn’t it?

But it’s more than art. It’s all of those meanings just below the surface coming into conversation with themselves and with us. We interpret. We imagine. We investigate. We create. Then, we share.

In this article, Saltz shares a selfie a man took on a trip to Auschwitz. What do you see? More, what do you feel?

It’s not just a selfie, right? There are so many associations culminating in this one imagine that create story that is more than its selfie parts. Maybe you’re horrified that this kid thought it was okay to make a “joke” out of Auschwitz. Maybe you’re not surprised. Maybe you feel something else. Point it, you feel something. You’re reacting to something conveyed. Something was said and you have a response. You are in dialogue with this selfie.

Not all selfies ask us new questions. Some confirm what we knew. Maybe this one confirmed you lack of faith in humanity…. Some ask us just to bask in a moment with the taker of the selfie, to share it with them. To imagine the experience of something. Like this one by astronaut Aki Hoshide :

This selfie, I would say, veers into one of the many categories Saltz identified in his article, the category of “selfie thinking” that he describes only as, “It’s the invisible thought balloon over the subjects. ‘It is totally incomprehensible, even to us, to be us,’ they [selfies] are saying, ‘or to be us, being here.'” In this way, selfies become confirmations of the self and then confirmations of the experience as we bear witness to it. More, as you bear witness to it. Selfies are a documentation of the experience of yourself experiencing something. Selfies transcend questions of vanity and of narcissism when they are allowed to enter this realm.

In this way, selfies capture the experience of the self. More, they capture our experience of ourselves, new digital media allowing them to enter into dialogue with themselves and with the world without.

A Note on Personal Responsibility

All this said, that doesn’t mean the genre is without its faults. It’s new and burgeoning and exploratory and experimental which leaves it open to making a lot of mistakes.

Funeral selfies, anyone??? Not a great idea. Though the blog is Great™

Also, that selfie of the guy at Auschwitz is not a stand-out. In fact, it’s becoming a disturbing trend. While I’m not sure the rise of the selfie itself is solely to blame for this trend, I do agree that it’s facilitating this kind of disrespect and dissociation from reality, from the gravity of one’s actions that social media at large is taking heat for. As mentioned in the article, there’s this growing disaffection and, really, inability to appreciate moments themselves without commemorating them via digital means. Like, things don’t mater or can’t unless they’re shared and validated through that act of sharing. Again, I don’t think the selfie should be wholly held accountable for this. Remember, there is a person behind the selfie.

Do You Hear Me?

Personally, I’m a bit of a selfie queen.

My own Instragram is essentially a shrine to myself. (Is that really so bad, though?)

Anyway, selfies are my go-to photo. Over the years, I’ve taken more selfies than I care to admit. Before I had a smartphone, I was taking selfies with my digital camera and uploading them to my computer like a savage~

Now, all it takes is the right angle and a click.

That said, I’ve always found selfies to be introspective. Especially when you can view many of them in concert with each other, you hear a story. Or, they tell a story–the story of you. I can see how I’ve changed–or haven’t. I can look at myself from many angles~

I can see which parts of my story hit, too. For instance, this is the latest piece of my story:

I know what the caption beneath says but what does it tell you? Even without the caption, would you still get a sense of my message?

I may be biased but I think so.

There’s about that far-off look that’s almost contemplative, thoughtful. Though the camera is angled below me, my head is still tilted, to the side so that my hair angles downward. The camera may be pointed up but I’m being dragged down. There’s the straight line of my mouth. The glow of my painted face that is at odds with the flat look in my eyes. Then, of course, there’s all the deep, black Xs slashed around my head, creating a disconcerting halo that also conflicts with the overall glow of my face. Even without saying anything, I think it’s clear that I’m experiencing a conflict of emotions. Maybe I’m battling something? I think the question is there and that is the power of the selfie in action, the art of it.

This selfie is the story of me in this moment, performed by me–maybe–but definitely lived by me. It is the embodiment of an experience. One that I wanted to share–not because I can’t appreciate what I feel and the moment I live in or because I need someone to validate it for it to be real but because I do appreciate my moments and believe there is something worthwhile in allowing them to be shared experiences. So many people are afraid to be vulnerable and I think the only way to overcome that is to show that everyone feels it.

Selfies are vulnerable.

They are our faces. What’s that expression, “save face”? Selfies literally do not allow you to spare any part of your face, let alone save it. It’s you, for all the world to see. It’s what you want to say about yourself for all the world to hear. That’s such a vulnerable position to put yourself in. I think we need to appreciate that more. We can by not dismissing selfies outright and reducing them to only one thing and instead by trying to listen and to read between the frames and to always understand there is a person behind at the heart of? every selfie~

****

Links

Twit 1 & Twit 2

Hypothes.is

Goodies

*Missing a collection of pics of people taking selfies? Here you go. I didn’t cover it in my post but this a big thing people do now–take photos of people taking photos. I suppose some people think it’s meta. Others just like being assh*les–which is, granted, fun sometimes. Some might fancy they’re making social commentary. What’s your stance?

*If You’re interested in the story behind this selfie (yes, this is Ai Weiwei and those police officers behind him are arresting him), I’d highly recommend checking out another video by The Art Assignment where they explain the story behind the selfie as well as the man and his work behind the selfie~

*Selfiecity is a project that’s investigating the selfies of 5 different cities, using a mix of theoretic, artistic, and quantitative methods. It seems like the project is interested in what implications of the selfie can be applied to a larger context, such as a city. It’s a very informative site and the essays seem well-researched and contrived. I wish I had more time to explore the site for my work but I highly recommend checking this site out!

~Till Next Time~