There was this email in my inbox from the Saatchi Gallery inviting me to the preview of their “From Selfie to Self-Expression” exhibition. Great, I thought! I didn’t need to think twice if I go or not. Name put on the list right away!
I even submitted a selfie of myself for their selfie contest, yes, no regrets! I saw some beautiful, some creative but also some super boring selfies submitted by people from all over Europe.
By the way, do you remember when you took your first selfie? I think I took mine back in the early 2000’s. Why taking a picture of myself and not asking someone else? I remember I wanted to keep it a bit intimate, I wanted to decide how I look in my picture, I wanted to do it for myself and enjoy the outcome by myself first. I didn’t feel the need to share it with anyone else. This obsession for sharing our selfies and the addiction for likes started only with using Facebook and other social media platforms and I was, of course, also “infected” by it as well. However, what I sometimes did was taking a picture of mine to transform it into something arty. Like Andy Warhol did. I used filters from my photo editor programs, copied and coloured my pictures and much more. I enjoyed the process, the experience of creating something unexpected with my own picture. It was fun!
Back to this email from the Saatchi Gallery, when saving the preview event to my calendar I thought “FINALLY”!! It was time to do such an exhibition. How can we ignore the art of selfies when even Kim Kardashian published a whole book with only her selfies? For several years, we’ve been living in a time of increased selfie creation and recreation. The definition of a selfie says that they are digitally evolved forms of self-portraits. I’m still not sure if they really are self-portraits. Are they? What do you think?
Well, remember selfies in the sense of self-portraits are nothing new at all. The Saatchi Gallery’s exhibition made that very clear and draw the line between the old masters (like Frida Kahlo and Van Gogh who painted self-portraits already so many decades ago) and our smartphone generation today.
What is the difference between Warhol’s or Rembrandt’s self-portraiture and our selfies? That depends, right? But a sure thing is that you don’t need to be an artist anymore to have access to colours, canvases etc. In the Western world almost everybody owns a smartphone and became a “photographer”. Thanks to having quick access to the latest technology, we all use great cameras now, filters (and some other silly applications) to share the best pictures with the world. In short, we all have the equipment which is super handy and always with us.
And still, I think that the mass of selfies that I see (and I’ve limited my social media use to Instagram and LinkedIn) are used to share likes, common interests and substitute face to face conversations maybe because we’re living in different cities, countries, timezones .… The majority of them, I must admit, bores me. I’m missing a message or inspiration, I’m missing the aesthetic side and the art in it. I know and accept that we have always been self-obsessed human beings; we’ve always been “selfiesh” throughout our whole existence. Ancient greek sculptures, voluptuous female ceramic figures, self-portraits, portrait paintings, biography books, fashion magazines etc. They all proof that we are obsessed with our selves and our bodies. And we really like it.
I think that the exhibition at the Saacthi Gallery this year brought the selfie into relation with the other forms of self-expressionism. It’s ignorant to not acknowledge the zeitgeist of selfies but what I really liked is that the exhibition was inspiring and thought provoking at the same time. Inspiring because we should really be more inventive and creative with our selfies. And thought provoking as I personally asked myself what the selfies revealing about our personalities, about our insecurities? Nigel Hurst, who had the idea about a selfie exhibition, the man behind this great great success at the Saatchi Gallery this year said it rightly.
“The selfie is by far the most expansionist form of visual self-expression, whether you like it or not … The art world cannot really afford to ignore it.” (Nigel Hurst in the Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/mar/30/selfie-as-art-at-saatchi-gallery-from-rembrandt-to-a-grinning-macaque)
And that’s my personal take away from this exhibition. My hope and curiosity to discover more creative and arty selfie projects out there. With asking some people around me about their opinion of selfies I can definitely say that these narcissist pictures are more than boring. They don’t inspire or make us feel better at all.
What do you think of taking selfies? I’ve asked some people and these were their answers.
“Unless they are with friends, they are a self-indulgence that is a clear sing of either insecurity or unpleasant confidence.”
“I don’t see many taking selfies but it’s usually the young people doing this. I think it’s funny. And I think it is a bit narcissist, too.”
“I have an ambivalent relationship with selfies, I sometimes like to take them (alone or with somebody else – friends, family) and it is a nice memory, quickly to do and can be fun as well. On the other hand I think we need to be careful as it can easily be “abused” in a way that I think it can make you become self-absorbed and egocentric. I deeply dislike fake girls who stand in front of a mirror in a club or restaurant taking 20 pictures of themselves with duck face and a kilo of make up on. I think this is simply wrong and not best use of the time. Not to mention that the reality often looks very different than what portrayed on a selfie.”
“Selfies: It’s like a mirror that you can use and put in front of you to look at yourself.”
“They annoy me when they involve pouting and general posing (ooh look at my sexy body) but I enjoy them when having fun with friends or for taking a nice travel photo with yourself in it. Also very useful as a mirror when you suspect you something in your teeth!”
“My opinion is quite divided. On one side I love how easy it is to take photos of great moments that you are having with friends or even alone. There is no taboo about taking a quick snack of yourself with a famous moment for instance. I think it’s a step forward from the days where you had to install your camera on a wall or balance it on a book and then wait weeks to have the film developed. However I also hate how it has become so commonplace. It’s almost impossible to pass someone in London who isn’t taking a selfie and I wonder if we are missing out on actually seeing the world by trying to commemorate it in photo form instead. I really dislike how so many are trying to portray these acts of adrenaline just to get the ‘perfect selfie’ too, there have been so many selfie related deaths and that’s sad. But that’s probably another topic altogether on social media.”
As an encouragement for everybody who read the article until here I would like you to start turning your camera around now. It’s time to do something different right? Watch this talk here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaoXCFBtoRo and let me know what do you think? What’s your next project? From selfie to self-expression.
From Selfie ...
To Selfexpression - An Exhibition Inspired Us