The modern self strives in eternal longing for something. It seeks protection and refuge in its own image, a reflection which feels safe despite its deceit, embodying a doubt that echoes the self’s own fraught relationship with its appearance.
One could define current times as the ‘era of self-deception’ – a subconscious state in which the obsessive striving for perfection, driven by mimetic desires, leads to a form of self-exploitation. Self-deception becomes a cage: any attempt to escape leads miserably into error. It is a quest for a misleading truth, a compulsive endeavour to create for oneself an ultimate, authentic, form of existence.
But – what do we mean when we speak of ‘self-obsession’? What remains with one’s ‘self’ and what is, in turn, projected straight back onto others?
Obselfed is an exhibition that brings together artists from different generations who reflect on the concept of the ‘self’, its cohesion and its fragmentation in an imitation-driven society. The show seeks to explore the boundaries between self-perception and the perception of others, questioning how our personalities construct themselves within elusive social stereotypes and the constant pressure of external judgment. What we derive from these fragmented visions of our ‘selves’, and what meaning we ascribe to them, is as much a result of an individualistic process as it is the logical outcome of a widespread voyeuristic tendency to ‘spy’ on others.
The modern self is both a kleptomaniac and a product: the constant need to inflate one’s own ego by accumulating ‘brand new’ personality traits turns into a destructive ideology. The characteristics and peculiarities of the ego become commodities and, in the associated ‘commodity logic’, any real understanding of the value of the borrowed, appropriated or – if you like – stolen goods, falls by the wayside. It all recedes into mere vanitas.
Contemporary individuality dissipates itself, backfiring and turning into projection; its weakness lies in the inability to trust its own gaze. The consistency of its ever-changing nature lies in the delicate harmonies that result from its convergence with the Other.
Obselfed is an attempt to establish a deeper discourse on self-perception. In their works, the invited artists focus on the de- and re- construction of the self, sharing an attitude of resistance towards the anachronistic norms and taboos of our precarious culture.
To engage with the concept of identity today is to enter a vast and complex terrain. How do we present our ‘personae’ to the outer world? Where do we draw the line between privacy and exposure?
Identity building could be understood as an intrinsically strategic process, in which the larcenous tendencies of individuals seem to be entangled with a shared devotion to anything seemingly out of the ordinary – a need to enhance the oddest characteristics of ourselves at any given time, thus turning their perception upside down. What makes us ‘different’ no longer isolates us, but rather validates us as part of a community.
It is a fascinating self-affirmation mechanism: what used to be hidden is now exaggeratedly displayed in order to find cultural validation.
In Obselfed the ‘self’ is analysed, fragmented, ironised, elevated, staged, uplifted and disrupted. The invited artists ‘activate’ a series of characters that raise different social commentaries, fully embracing the paradoxes of contemporary existence. In this framework the entire gallery becomes a stage, developing its narrative from the main room to the office, kitchen, showroom…The presence of works ubiquitously inhabiting the space is thought to convey a feeling of overcrowding, of reiteration. An “obsessive” curatorial environment is created, turning the gallery into an echo chamber where the works resonate in different corners as affirmations of restless states of mind
Obselfed seeks to dismantle assumptions of our fixed subjectivity and to highlight the contemporary means of cultural self-consumption, emphatically and without naïveté; a quest for authentic individuality in an ‘obselfed’ society.
Curated by Marta Santi