Selfies – an exhibition by Simon Spain
Text by Barbara Piscitelli, Arts Specialist October 2013
Chapman and Bailey, Melbourne
Simon’s exhibition leads us to ask important questions about one of the central issues of all humans – the matter of identity and the self. Today, in this era of history, there is much discussion about the ubiquity of self-presentation as a twenty-first century trend. But, is it? Isn’t this exploration of the self an early, timeless and persistent trend in human growth and development? Children, for example, make portraits as their first images – capturing the essential elements of eyes and mouth to signal our human-ness. We now have greater platforms for the dispersal of our ideas, and our messages remain mostly personal and self-oriented.
When I was a child, my mother often discussed identity with us. I remember once, she was talking about how many facets her personality had – how different people brought out different qualities and varieties of her personality. This show by Simon reminds me of these many faceted varieties of self – all fragments of other people bundled together to shape our identity. Film director Chuck Palahnuik expressed it clearly when he said:
Simon shows an honesty in revealing the multiple ways of understanding who and what shapes him, and ultimately all of us, through this exhibition. Interestingly, Simon uses multiple ingenious processes of photography and iPad digital technology to create images that speak to all of us through the layers and fragments of experiences we encounter everyday.
Simon’s work pushes us closer and closer to the central questions of who we are, and what make us who we are. Like Alice in Wonderland, we often find the questions perplexing, leading us to echo: “I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?” “How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.” “I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!”
I applaud Simon exposing his multiplicity to us in this exhibition, and encourage all of us to engage with his ideas and explore our own selves, our own great puzzle.