thoughts on self-reflexivity: personal narrative, biography and identity construction
As a participant in contemporary society, it feels near impossible to escape a self-reflexive perspective upon our own experiences in reality. Extending Lacan’s mirror phase, we have more ways than ever to catch reflective glimpses and alternate perspectives upon the events and experiences that comprise our lives. It has become easier and easier to create degrees of distance from these experiences that allow us to see them in vastly different ways without becoming entirely detached. We are presented with technological advances which allow us to capture, store and represent documentation of our experiences, images and video clips that stand in for and supplement our memories. Where emerging technologies and social media connect with our lives we find a near continuous interrogation and presentation of our past, present, and anticipated future. Our biographies or personal narratives are in a constant state of self-construction (there also exists a shared, accessible communally constructed biography as well, but this is ultimately editable by us too).
Our memories can now be externally encoded in spheres of greater autonomy and control. I believe, we have always shaped our own self-image. I’ve always viewed memory as the architecture of our identities. All memory formation is susceptible to biased encoding, solidifying within us from our internal perspective of the events of our lives archived in our minds with all of the emotions, sensations, and cognitions that we experienced in those moments. I’m very interested in the ways in which we not only present our own identity constructions, but also the ways in which we participate in other’s active self-constructions— both in our in-the-flesh daily experiences and in our virtual, digital interactions via an increasing plurality of social media outlets.
In my own life and practice, I find this self-reflexive identity construction ever present. I am watching my teen daughter develop in this culture. I hear her discuss and understand her interactions on her phone as her social life, a facet of her experience that has equal weight with her tactile interactions. My participation in any version of an art world represents a willful desire to interrogate these things more deeply and through a very specific set of lenses. Is it too simple to say that all of this is a means of agency production? The lines between life and practice blur when it comes to the rigor and research into my thoughts, memories, beliefs, aesthetic motivations that seem to never cease. There is a nagging desire to understand the origins and evolutions of events from my past, a desire to trace the forces of influence at work in the shaping of what I understand as a self. A self that is increasingly fragmented, parsed out and published for consumption.
In my thinking balancing is a constant state of being, an active and responsive state of being that cannot ignore the forces that threaten it. But to be balancing is also not to be entirely stable, it s the acting of moving through and closer to one’s center in order to increase stability. So maybe it is through an understanding of the center of our own being, our consciousness, that we can understand our place in space and time, or relation to events outside our bodies and the universe at large and the new, ever-present digital-social gaze.
For me, the act of drawing is a way to engage in this self-reflexive dialog. I am still seeking the a way of engaging social media that feels authentic and in balance with my life and practice.
Last year I had the opportunity to collaborate with Original Swimming Party to produce a series of drawings that would correspond with their album, HYPERGIANT. A Hypergiant is a luminosity class 0 star that has an enormous mass and luminosity and that is showing signs of a very high rate of mass loss. It is a star with a brightness is a result of a push towards the limits of what holds it together. For this series of drawings I worked with China marker on tarpaper to make drawings that were self-reflexive, where one half was made without thought and the other would be rendered as its reflection. Each drawing for this series would begin degrading immediately after it was made, the white china marker would begin to leech the dark tinted tar from the tar paper and tinge it with a copper brown hue, reducing the contrast between the mark and the field over time. The luminosity of the marks that make these drawings begin to degrade within days after being rendered. This fit with the idea of the Hypergiant and the tone of the album, secondarily these works are all analog/digital hybrids— what you see in these images does not exist any longer in physical form and only lives on a digital file. This is in parallel to the way music is produced, what was a live sound exists for us only as a recorded digital file, and yet through this file we can still connect to the original intent.