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ARCHAEOLOGIES OF THE SELFIE

On February 27th, Galeria Nara Roesler | New York opened Archaeologies of the Selfie, an exhibition commenting on today’s phenomenon of mass image production and dissemination arguably conflated in the recent genre of the selfie. The exhibition curator Luis Pérez-Oramas begins by contextualizing the case of the selfie through two concurrent ideas: Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of Middle-Brow Art and the narcissistic autarchy of the individual.

Following Bourdieu’s approach, Pérez-Oramas situates the selfie as a symptom of the social use of photography, whereby we can all become photographers by having access to devices that produce easy and increasingly perfect images. Concomitantly, the narcissistic autarchy of the individual addresses the social use of photography as a means of self-representation – either realistic or fantasized – and as a token of one’s existence.

From this perspective, one can establish an archaeology of the selfie beginning with the fantasized image of Narcissus’ luring and ultimately fatal reflection. Archaeologies of the Selfie thus emerges from this archè, not as an exhibition of photographs nor of selfies, but rather as a curatorial commentary on the dialectic of self-representation and image obliteration –in Pérez-Oramas’ words, as an exercise of ‘deconstruction of the selfie and reconciliation with slow imagery.’

Vasco Szinetar, from the series Frente al espejo, 1983-2020, 5 photos of 19.9 x 30 cm and one piece of 17 x 13.1 cm. Courtesy: Galeria Nara Roesler
Vasco Szinetar, from the series Frente al espejo, 1983-2020, 5 photos of 19.9 x 30 cm and one piece of 17 x 13.1 cm. Courtesy: Galeria Nara Roesler
André Severo, Untitled, 2019, collage, 18 x 13 cm. Courtesy: Galeria Nara Roesler
André Severo, Untitled, 2019, collage, 18 x 13 cm. Courtesy: Galeria Nara Roesler
Cao Guimarães, Portraits # 16, 1990/2016, inkjet printing on cotton paper, 40 x 60 cm. Courtesy: Galeria Nara Roesler
Cao Guimarães, Portraits # 16, 1990/2016, inkjet printing on cotton paper, 40 x 60 cm. Courtesy: Galeria Nara Roesler

“No one could have known, when we opened the show, that selfies would be radically transformed in their very intentions, becoming the most important means of visual communication among people, as they are forced to confinement and quarantine,” the curator says in an email communication sent by the gallery.

“Suddenly, unexpectedly, the utmost narcissistic practice of image-making turned out to be the most effective way to reach others, offering testimony, breaching distance, overcoming reclusion and ultimately showing our resilient, living community, as it faces and triumphs over the dread of global illness. No one could have known either that in a matter of weeks the world would confront the pandemic of COVID-19 at a planetary scale, turning the meaning of selfies upside down, from head to toe,” he adds.

Antonio Dias, Sun Photo as Self-Portrait, 1968, acrylic paint on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Courtesy: Galeria Nara Roesler
Antonio Dias, Sun Photo as Self-Portrait, 1968, acrylic paint on canvas, 150 x 150 cm. Courtesy: Galeria Nara Roesler
Tomie Ohtake, Untitled, 1961, ink and oil on canvas, 75 x 85 cm. Courtesy: Galeria Nara Roesler
Tomie Ohtake, Untitled, 1961, ink and oil on canvas, 75 x 85 cm. Courtesy: Galeria Nara Roesler
Paulo Bruscky, Xeroperformance, 1988, Xerox on paper, 2 parts, 32,5 x 21,6 cm each. Courtesy: Galeria Nara Roesler
Paulo Bruscky, Xeroperformance, 1988, Xerox on paper, 2 parts, 32,5 x 21,6 cm each. Courtesy: Galeria Nara Roesler

The core pieces, or historical anchors, of Archaeologies of the Selfie are two paintings: Sun Photo as Self-Portrait (1968) by Antonio Dias – because ultimately all selfies are self-portraits – and Untitled (1961) by Tomie Ohtake, which she painted wearing a blindfold and while being explicitly self-referential in its making, nonetheless results in an obliterated image.

These markers are exhibited with pieces by Milton Machado, Cao Guimarães, Paulo Bruscky, Wesley Duke Lee, Vicente de Mello, André Severo and Vasco Szinetar – each of which inherently explores, in their process of making, medium or in their imagery, the different ways in which the self has been depicted, referenced, imagined, obliterated or defied over time.

Archaeologies of the Selfie presents pieces from the enduring matter that is the rhetoric around the self, reinvigorated today by the nature of contemporary image production, positioning the selfie within an art historical trajectory that has accompanied this social, anthropological and psychological phenomenon.

“Our days have brought a new dimension to our show at a time when selfies have unexpectedly become the most social form of imagery: from our quarantines, from the intimacy of our reclusion and closeness we stand as a society, as plurality, as multitude, through our own images.», concludes Pérez-Oramas.

Luis Pérez-Oramas on Archaeologies of the Selfie. Courtesy: Galeria Nara Roesler | New York

ARCHAEOLOGIES OF THE SELFIE

Galeria Nara Roesler | New York, 22 East, 69th Street, 3rd floor, New York

February 28 – April 18, 2020

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