The selfie is a fusion of the self-image, the self-portrait of the artist as a hero

Posted by

No human has seen that perspective in person since the photograph was taken, yet most of us feel we know how the Earth looks because of Blue Marble.
That unified world, visible from one spot, often seems out of reach now. In the forty years since Blue Marble, the world has changed dramatically in four key registers. Today, the world is young, urban, wired, and hot.

In 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary announced that its word of the year was selfie, which it defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” Apparently, the word was used 17,000 percent more often between October 2012 and October 2013 than during the previous year, due in part to the popularity of the mobile photo-sharing site Instagram. In 2013, 184 million pictures were tagged as selfies on Instagram alone. The selfie is a striking example of how once elite pursuits have become a global visual culture. At one time, self-portraits were the preserve of a highly skilled few. Now anyone with a camera phone can make one. (Pg.29)

The selfie is a fusion of the self-image, the self-portrait of the artist as a hero, and the machine image of modern art that works as a digital performance. It has created a new way to think of the history of visual culture as that of the self-portrait. (Pg.31)

The Spanish painter Diego Velázquez’s masterpiece Las Meninas (1656) linked the aura of majesty to that of the self-portrait. The painting is a set of visual puns, plays, and performances that revolve around the self-portrait of the artist. (Pg.32)

In short, the mirror is a visual bridge between past, present, and future.(Pg.37)

Toulouse-Lautrec deliberately painted his reflection in a mirror, rather than just using a mirror to make a self-portrait as was traditional. The reflected candlestick removes any doubt as to whether the frame indicates a mirror or a window, as in the Velázquez, for Toulouse-Lautrec clearly wanted us to recognize it as such.
At the same time, the painting both conceals and reveals the artist. By using a mirror standing on a mantelpiece, he shows us only his head and shoulders. He might have used this device to conceal his disability. For, either as a result of childhood accidents or a congenital condition, Toulouse-Lautrec had an adult upper body but the legs of a child. He depicted himself in the Self-Portrait as just protruding into the mirror, leaving the top half of the mirror empty, indicating to the observant viewer that he was very short. He might have chosen to adjust what he saw, so as to fill the “screen,” like a present-day actor or politician standing on a riser to seem taller.

(24 November 1864 – 9 September 1901)

Whereas for dominant groups the mirror is often a site (and sight) of affirmation, for people who look or feel different, the mirror can be a site of trauma. Toulouse-Lautrec’s self-portrait confronts that sight without making himself the object of a freak show. I use the term deliberately because in the period people with disabilities were literally exhibited as “freaks” to paying audiences (Adams 2001). Toulouse-Lautrec refuses to cater to this voyeuristic desire to see, but does not distort the reality of his difference. It’s a different kind of heroism and one that is not immediately recognizable as such to others. (Pg.47)

The selfie depicts the drama of our own daily performance of ourselves in tension with our inner emotions that may or may not be expressed as we wish. (Pg30)

The selfie brings the tension between our desired self and our reality. (EZM)

ToulouseLautrec syndrome is named after the famous 19th century French artist Henri de ToulouseLautrec, who is believed to have had the disorder. The syndrome is known clinically as pycnodysostosis (PYCD). PYCD causes brittle bones, as well as abnormalities of the face, hands, and other parts of the body.

ToulouseLautrec suffered with health conditions for all of his life; he fractured both of his legs as a teenager and these never healed, leaving it to be widely believed that he suffered from a congenital bone disease. While he developed an adult-sized torso, his legs never grew beyond those of a child.

WE&P by EZorrilla.

Leave a Reply