As a part of my ALC203 unit I was challenged to make a selfie with the theme ‘study’. I took a selfie in the library where I usually study with the book I was currently reading that coincidentally is about knowledge. As I tweeted my selfie, I looked through the other selfies being tweeted and started reflecting upon the concept of tweeting.
The selfie is certainly a new definition taking point of departure in the contemporary digital world. But the concept is not necessarily a contemporary one. Before smartphones with front cameras and before cameras in general, artists have been painting selfies in centuries.
The Mexican painter Frida Kahlo has used surrealistic imagery in her self-portraits to express her female position in society in the first half of 1900. The Dutch painter from the 1850s Vincent van Gogh is especially known for his self-portraits where he with his expressive painting technique successfully has portrayed a neurotic and depressed self. Even in early 1500, the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci was painting self-portraits to express his intellectual self.
When artists have been constructing these selfies through time, they have used their medium to construct the kind of identity they want to portray. They have used symbols, painting techniques and intertextuality to let their audience, the museum visitors, know who they were as an artist, and what they wanted to contribute to society.
Today a selfie seems more rapid than an oil painting, but they still are a way of constructing a certain representation of the self. A representation we upload on social media to let our audience know who we are. We still use the medium to construct the image using different camera angles, props and filters to present a sense of self. When I looked through all the creative selfies on Twitter, I perceived my peers in certain ways according to how they had constructed their ‘studying self’ in their selfie.
The word ‘selfie’ is inclusive of these reflections. It is and always has been a way of capturing, but most importantly, constructing a self to constitute the self to the world and thereby to oneself.