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13.06.17 — Article

‘Selfie to Self-Expressionism’: Is there an art to taking a Selfie? 

How do you take a good selfie? Is it the light, the lenses, or the angle?
The Saatchi Gallery’s on-going exhibition ‘Selfie to Self-Expressionism’ explores this question by displaying a wide variety of selfies. Beginning with a collection of old master and modernist self-portraits by Rembrandt, Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo, the show progresses to images of contemporary celebrities like Leo DiCaprio and Hillary Clinton, from tabloids or social media.

The exhibition celebrates the contemporary phenomenon, ‘The Selfie’: A product of narcissism and self-introspection, Juno Calypso’s video of herself absorbed in her own reflection as she dances seductively in a heart shaped pink bath is an example of our intrinsic obsession with ‘the self’. The Selfie is a modern medium of self-expression open to all. Saatchi has presented selfies as an equalitarian medium of expression; the faces of the famous and the ordinary alike are displayed on walls, and often together in the same picture.

A question I ask myself, as a wander through the selfie strewn rooms: Is a selfie the same as a self-portrait? How does the viewer differentiate, especially when both are displayed in a gallery setting? Saatchi has displaced the Selfie from its cyber domain to the artists stage, thus we subconsciously look at the image differently. “Why are the paintings on screens?” is a question heard frequently. Our judgements become less superficial as we spend more time wandering through the rooms, instead of sitting flicking through our news-feeds. The exhibition attempts to show a photograph becoming Art, even if an Artist did not hold the camera. However, I cannot look at the shaky snaps taken with a Go-pro on the slopes with the same respect or emotion as the psychologically turbulent and brutally analytic self-portrait of Corbet displayed in the first room of the show.

Joseph Beuys infamously stated in the sixties: “Everyone is an Artist”. Today everyone is armed with a camera, thanks to the ubiquity of the camera phone, but we cannot all be called ‘photographers’ or ‘artists’. Does the emancipation of the camera mean photography, as an art form, needs to be redefined? Saatchi’s ‘#Selfies’ competition, in collaboration with Huawei, attempts to show Beuys’ statement has never been so real. In Gallery 7 three large selfie screens reflect the visitor’s form, incorporating the selfies as part of the show. Saatchi is certainly celebrating the Self in this exhibition; but I am still not convinced that a Selfie can be deemed as Art.

‘Selfie to Self-Expressionism’
OPEN UNTILL 23rd July 2017: Go check it out and judge for yourself.
SAATCHI GALLERY, Duke Of York’s Hq, King’s Road, London SW3 4RY

Written by
Ottilie Kemp