The One-Sided Looking Glass…

Hey~

This week was an interesting one for me. In class, we began delving into the selfie and into concepts around self-representation in the digital age. My fave topic~

Waxing Poetic on the Selfie (Take 50 Bajillion)

For those who may be unaware, my thesis project revolves around self-representation in the digital age. Specifically, I’m investigating this subject through a Neo-Dada lens, analyzing emergent forms of digital content creation as new forms of not only self-expression but also as representative of a resurgence of traditional Dada ideals. I think there is a case to be made for recognizing emergent forms of digital content like memes, gifs, shitposting, and, even, selfies as a kind of Degenerate Art 2.0 (check out that post). If you’re interested in hearing more of my thoughts surrounding this subject matter, you can check out my thesis blog.

Anyway, self-representation and, by extension, selfies are a subject of hella interest to me. I’ve discussed my thoughts around the selfie at length here and here and my bonus post this week is all about a Vulture article which explores the selfie medium as a new genre of art. To me, I believe recognizing the selfie as an art-form is not beyond reason. Though I personally think of the selfie as more of a communication tool and selfies as a  new kind of discourse, I do think there are plenty of attributes of the selfie that could qualify it as art.

To see how some artists are incorporating the selfie into their work, I recommend checking out artist Alex Saum’s #SelfiePoetry project. It is a collection of eight digital poems that, “explores the intertwining of two ideas: the untruth behind artistic or literary histories, and our (il) legitimacy to intervene them to create narratives that make teleological sense”. This is my favorite poem from the collection and it incorporates Saum’s own Instagram and selfies:

In addition to discussing our own thoughts about the selfie as contemporary citizens of the digital age, we also explored Erving Goffman’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1956). In class, we read the introduction aloud. In the introduction, Goffman discusses a myriad of issues complicating not just the presentation of self but the performance of self, which is something I find to be quite interesting. Personally, I do believe that the onset of digital technology has made life an increasingly performative experience. Because of social media, it”s accessibility, and the 24/7 news cycle, I do believe that a large percentage of people are performing life more than living it. That said, I find it interesting that this was a concern before digital technology. Goffman states, “I shall consider the way in which the individual in ordinary work situations presents himself and his activity to others, the ways in which he guides and controls the impression they form of him, and the kinds of things he may and may not do while sustaining his performance before them”. Essentially, as Shakespeare said, we’re all players and all the world’s stage.

If life has always been a performance, then, to me, digital means are just providing a new stage upon which to perform. The problem being that this stage is not only large but the audience as well. And, that audience is quite unforgiving in their critiques.

That said, bringing the scale back down, I tend to think of selfies in a more positive light. For me, at least, selfies have been a way for me to regain self-confidence as well as reclaim a sense of self. I’m in control of the viewer’s gaze when I take a selfie rather than at the mercy of it. I find that to be empowering as do many others. Some people, though, are critical about the empowering aspects of the selfie and argue that it is still a form of objectification. Or, mire, they argue that the selfie is simple vain and frivolous. Many people dismiss the selfie as being anything significant.

I think utter dismissal of the selfie is a very narrow-minded act. Also, I think that dismissing the selfie, which is a medium popularized by the constantly scolded Millennial generation, is a way to similarly dismiss Millennials and the notion that such an “irresponsible” and “shallow” could ever be responsible for anything meaningful. In my opinion, the dismissal of the selfie is a vilification of the Millennial generation. At least. I think dismissing the selfie is a symptom of a greater sociocultural problem.

Anyway, back to self-representation in the digital age. I feel that the selfie along with many other emergent forms of digital content expresses the partiality of self. At least, all of these different mediums together create this collage of self that communicates that self is so much more than any one thing. If anything, the #selfieunselfie project really emphasizes the performative qualities of the selfie but also how there is no one medium through which to express self. Even the selfie is incapable of conveying any holistic sense of self. To me, this doesn’t indicate a shortcoming so much as it illustrates the complexity of self and the affordances digital technology provides to expressing this inherent but often irrevocable aspect of self: that self is prismatic and multi-faceted.

Overall, I think an exploration of the selfie reveals that it is not so simple a subject as many people think or would like to believe. As Goffman’s book indicates, self has never been easy to express or capture. In fact, so much of self seems to be dependent upon the interactions we have with each other, again, removing control of self from the equation. While the onset of the digital age has certainly complicated our relationship to ourselves and each other, I think it has also provided us with new opportunities to explore complexities that we yet to comprehend. More, new technology and creative uses of this technology, such as the selfie, allow us to experiment with our identities and explore how far we can extend who we are. The digital age may come with new problems for us but it also comes with new opportunities to shed light on who we are and who we can be. I think there is so much potential for us to be so much more than we ever thought possible.

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#SelfieUnselfie Project

Though I participated in the first round of the project already, I decided to make another entry. Personally, I wanted to see if there was any change in my thoughts or perspective since a lot of things have changed in my personal life between these two Makes. I don’t think much has changed in my core concepts but I do think my latter entry is more raw, perhaps. I felt a little torn open writing it but it was a good kind of pain. Despite how often I talk about self and self-representation, I still find it incredibly painful to talk about myself and my own sense of self and what makes me feel real. Please, excuse any of my posts if they seem a little too frenetic or otherwise anxious; this topic really takes a lot of energy for me to write about.

Discussing the #Selfieunselfie Project

Make: My Selfies Keep My Secrets

Daily Digital Alchemies

In my first DDA this week, I memed my cat, Dove. I took an origami class at my local library this week and learned how to make a little samurai hat which I promptly placed on Dove’s head when I returned home and snapped a pic of. In my DDA, I imagined what she must be thinking about the undignified gesture. (She is quite the diva–which I think means something coming from me >.>)

In my second DDA this week, I let my inner child loose >.< I hope my entry isn’t too uncouth~

My Annotations on the Goffman Article

~Till next time all you pretty people ;)~

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I’m Nobody! Who Are You?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Until recently, I considered myself a selfie-queen. I would post pictures of myself daily on my social media feeds. The pictures made me feel confident and made me see myself as pretty. Despite the confidence I’m sometimes told I project, I’m actually quite self-conscious about my appearance. Growing up my skin was too pale and my nose too big and my freckles too blotchy and my teeth too crooked and… I grew up feeling like I was not enough. Posting selfies was a way for me to reassert control over my own narrative and reclaim a sense of self. Due to some personal reasons, I haven’t really posted a selfie in a while but I do still view them as these tools/conduits for self-renewal as well as self-reflection. They tell your audience that you are “feeling yourself” that day or feeling something about yourself or your life that you need to express in a way that can be witnessed.

In my selfie (left), I am pictured in the less-traditional-but-still-common full-body pose. My reflection in a mirror is the central focus. I am wearing all black which contrasts with my pale complexion and silvery-white-blonde hair. In my face, my blue eyes shine, the light from the window beyond the mirror catching the gleam in them just right. I clearly know my angles. This is not an amateur selfie. My pose is strong and my expression teasingly mysterious as my mouth is hidden behind my phone screen. At once, this image is a revelation and a secret. I’m someone, maybe–but who? Another rebel without a cause? A punk-rocker at her day-job? A girl who is deeply self-conscious about herself?

A selfie’s significance, I believe, lies in its utility.

For each one of us as individuals, it can be a tool through which we rebuild self-esteem and explore our own identities. A selfie can serve as a witness to who we are in a particular moment of our lives. But, this medium is a one-way mirror. What we see when we look at our selfies is not what everyone else sees. More, not everyone else has our own personal context. No, they only have their own contexts.

My selfies don’t reveal the many journal pages I’ve scribbled on over the years. They don’t reveal of the words within those pages, any of the poems I’ve written for people that I’ll never share, any of the memories I’ve caressed, any of the “I love you”s or “I miss you”s. My selfies don’t share the drowsy dreams drawn nor the faint stains from tear drops that couldn’t be brushed away fast enough. My selfies keep these parts of me close to the chest. They hide my mouth behind a screen.

My selfies keep my secrets.

It’s odd, when I think about it, that people don’t know about these thoughts or feelings. When I thought about what would best represent me without me being in the picture, the first thing that came to mind were my journals. My writings. Aside from me, my journal pages have witnessed the realest parts of me. More, they contain the realest parts of me. I am not just in those pages. I am those pages. I own every word in those journals. I own every experience they record. They may even know me better than I know myself some nights.

At the same time that I think it’s odd people don’t know the me within my writing, I also can’t imagine sharing my journals with, really, anyone. Though there are some words within for other people that I should or could share, I don’t write in my journals for anyone else but me.

To me, selfies and new practices of self-representation in the digital age emphasize the partiality of self. There is not one container that can hold all of who and what we are. No single picture can accomplish that because who we are is so much more.

Not a single one of us is not enough.

Fuck anyone who ever made us feel differently. They were wrong. I hope we see can see that with every #selfie and #unselfie we take.

I know I’m trying to.

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~Till next time~

Thoughts on Selfies

More Thoughts on Selfies

The Dark Circles Beneath (My first #selfieunselfie project)

Twitter

 

 

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?

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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~

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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~