Self-portraiture is a form that seems to offer an insight into the ‘I’ and to imply that the self is coherent, organic and complete. But self-portraiture in painting has always had contained within it the strange doubleness of a mirrored self-scrutiny – and so the self-portrait already works as a prefiguration of the contortions of the self in a digital age.
‘Selfmade’ uses digital photography as the foundation for a way to think about the fear that my ‘self’ may be a construct made from my own perception and by rapidly changing social and technological codes. Using that pre-existing capacity within self-portraiture for a critical examination of the self, this work thinks about whether it is possible to have a coherent identity in a digital age.
The camera, in all its forms, is ubiquitous. Everyday life is intertwined with a stream of digital code translating the image to the photograph and back again, simulating the materiality of the real via the language of the computer. Living increasingly simulated lives, we construct narratives and characters for ourselves in our online and offline environments, living by ‘parables of the virtual’.
‘Selfmade’ creates new versions of the self-portrait by entering the processes of digital photography. Rather than recoiling from the estranged, ‘inauthentic’ self of the age of surveillance and virtuality, ‘Selfmade’ enters the digital stream. Its images are a result of the inhabitation of the digital image by an active, self-analysing consciousness in search of the remnants of a recognizable and whole sense of being. ‘Selfmade’ takes back control of the self-image by mimicking and contorting the very photographic technologies through which we now create ourselves with.
The digital sculptures at the centre of ‘Selfmade’ are captured instants from a complex artistic process that builds a series of material and virtual versions of ‘myself’. This begins with a bust created by covering the body in alginate and plaster, resulting in negative and positive sculptural forms. Repurposed game console technology records the spatial forms of these objects and allows for a virtual reality version of myself to be created and manipulated. Instants in the rendering of this virtual self are captured, so that ‘Selfmade’ reveals and participates precisely in the moments at which a digital identity is created.
‘Selfmade’ creates an imagery that walks the line between the authentic and the virtual, the real and the representational, the photograph and the sculpture. By re-authoring the digital image from the inside it looks for the vestiges of agency and artistry in the simulated ocularity of new technology.