Sense of Selfed
Solo exhibition at Dortmunder Kunstverein, August 2015
Photo credit: Roland Baege
Press release by Oriane Durand, Director of Dortmunder Kunstverein
(translated to from German to English)
There is no doubt that the tradition of self-expression has a long history: from artist self-portraits in painting or sculpture, the first photographic self-portraits by Hippolyte Bayard, Talbot or Cornelius mid-19th century, or its propagation through performance - especially with in Bodyart of the 1960s. In the late 70s the American artist Cindy Sherman challenged self-identity through the self-produced image using a long shutter release cable. One could almost speak of Selfies in that regard, but with the main difference being that this new type of spontaneous mode of photographing, is but a short distance from the body - usually at an arm's length - and often is created to be published on social networks like Facebook or Instagram. This here-to-stay trend invites anyone, not only professional photographers, to get in touch with a smartphone or a hand-held camera to create photos of themselves. Photographic quality takes a backseat to the principle reason these type of images are created: for the attention and admiration by audiences on said social networks.
In her exhibition Sense of selfed Jessica Gispert reflected (* 1984 in Miami, lives and works in Dusseldorf) this kind of self-expression in a surreal storyboard, printed on large advertising banners: the Venus of Willendorf, Upper Palaeolithic figurine dated 25,000 B.C. The Venus was reprinted for Gispert's photo series as a 3D sculpture, and perhaps embodies a personal imprint of the artist, as this figure is embedded in an environment of sand and water. According to the art historian LeRoy McDermott, the Venus of Willendorf was created as a result of self-observation, not through the contemplation of an outsider. The Venus of Willendorf, along with other female Upper Paleolithic figurines, are perhaps one of the first self-portraits of mankind. Jessica Gispert presents the Venus in the aesthetic realm of the "Selfie" stage: It stands in the center of the image and has been photographed close-up. Although the scale of the 3D printed sculpture (which can be seen on the rear wall of the Kunstverein) in reality is 12 cm tall, it appears in fits proportionally in the the landscapes presented by Gispert.
Holiday pictures at the beach are a banal motif. Gispert's photo series intermittently regards provocative Instagram accounts like those by Kim Kardashian, with 40 million followers praising "Belfies" (Selfies of the "ass"), as it also acknowledges the absurdity the images convey as possible private holiday pictures featuring a nude sculpture brought to life. The banners echo the famous "Collins Avenue" in Miami Beach, which is lined in advertisements promoting new luxury lifestyles, showing fabricated scenes of the "good life," as often a published selfie can also intend.
Like a frieze, the Venus on the banners moves from picture to picture, from window to window and is seen from different perspectives, sometimes in the sand, sometimes on a towel, sometimes from the top or even from behind. The artificiality of the situation is obvious: the Venus remains as the plastic copy of a stone image of an unknown woman. An anonymous being lying somewhere between Doll and woman, she participates in something unfolding a big masquerade. Digital media allows us to spread our image, to be "liked", but can we find our true selves in a moment where privacy is quite equal to publicness? The exhibition Sense of selfed allows the visitor to be part of this comedy for a moment, and see his or her own reflection in the windows, inviting them to explore the ambivalence of the digital mirror.