Until recently, I considered myself a selfie-queen. I would post pictures of myself daily on my social media feeds. The pictures made me feel confident and made me see myself as pretty. Despite the confidence I’m sometimes told I project, I’m actually quite self-conscious about my appearance. Growing up my skin was too pale and my nose too big and my freckles too blotchy and my teeth too crooked and… I grew up feeling like I was not enough. Posting selfies was a way for me to reassert control over my own narrative and reclaim a sense of self. Due to some personal reasons, I haven’t really posted a selfie in a while but I do still view them as these tools/conduits for self-renewal as well as self-reflection. They tell your audience that you are “feeling yourself” that day or feeling something about yourself or your life that you need to express in a way that can be witnessed.
In my selfie (left), I am pictured in the less-traditional-but-still-common full-body pose. My reflection in a mirror is the central focus. I am wearing all black which contrasts with my pale complexion and silvery-white-blonde hair. In my face, my blue eyes shine, the light from the window beyond the mirror catching the gleam in them just right. I clearly know my angles. This is not an amateur selfie. My pose is strong and my expression teasingly mysterious as my mouth is hidden behind my phone screen. At once, this image is a revelation and a secret. I’m someone, maybe–but who? Another rebel without a cause? A punk-rocker at her day-job? A girl who is deeply self-conscious about herself?
A selfie’s significance, I believe, lies in its utility.
For each one of us as individuals, it can be a tool through which we rebuild self-esteem and explore our own identities. A selfie can serve as a witness to who we are in a particular moment of our lives. But, this medium is a one-way mirror. What we see when we look at our selfies is not what everyone else sees. More, not everyone else has our own personal context. No, they only have their own contexts.
My selfies don’t reveal the many journal pages I’ve scribbled on over the years. They don’t reveal of the words within those pages, any of the poems I’ve written for people that I’ll never share, any of the memories I’ve caressed, any of the “I love you”s or “I miss you”s. My selfies don’t share the drowsy dreams drawn nor the faint stains from tear drops that couldn’t be brushed away fast enough. My selfies keep these parts of me close to the chest. They hide my mouth behind a screen.
My selfies keep my secrets.
It’s odd, when I think about it, that people don’t know about these thoughts or feelings. When I thought about what would best represent me without me being in the picture, the first thing that came to mind were my journals. My writings. Aside from me, my journal pages have witnessed the realest parts of me. More, they contain the realest parts of me. I am not just in those pages. I am those pages. I own every word in those journals. I own every experience they record. They may even know me better than I know myself some nights.
At the same time that I think it’s odd people don’t know the me within my writing, I also can’t imagine sharing my journals with, really, anyone. Though there are some words within for other people that I should or could share, I don’t write in my journals for anyone else but me.
To me, selfies and new practices of self-representation in the digital age emphasize the partiality of self. There is not one container that can hold all of who and what we are. No single picture can accomplish that because who we are is so much more.
Not a single one of us is not enough.
Fuck anyone who ever made us feel differently. They were wrong. I hope we see can see that with every #selfie and #unselfie we take.
Tbh, I’m going to miss our discussions on digital art~
The Gif that Just Keeps on Giving
Before I get into my reflection on digital art, I want to talk about our last hurrah for the Make Bank.
This week, we used what we learned from last week’s experimentation with Giphy to make two different kinds of gifs which I pronounce with a soft g like in graphic image format fight me.
The first make asked us to gif a process. Of course, I chose to make a gif illustrating one of the many metalworking processes familiar to me. (For anyone who’s come to know me, I doubt that’s shocking~)
Anyway, here’s my gif-take on soldering:
***Please do not attempt at home or in any other place not properly ventilated***
So, soldering is the process by which pieces/sheets of metal can be joined. In order to solder, you must first have *drum roll* solder (of which there are 3 kinds–hard, medium, & soft). Typically, start with hard solder and work your way down (the designations don’t refer to the composition or sturdiness of the solder but the temperature at which it melts, hard solder taking the longest to melt and soft the least; so, you want to start with hard solder and work your way down because you don’t want your solder to re-melt and flow every time you attach a new piece of metal to your project–it’d be constantly falling apart, yeah?) Anyway, my gif starts with me placing my chips of hard solder down (technically I should have sweat soldered this but tbh I couldn’t be bothered~)
From there, I torch the piece (soldering temperature is around 850 degrees Fahrenheit). Then, once you see the solder flow and melt, you have to quick quench the piece in water and then in the Pickle–which is a cleaning solution. Metal gets very dirty once heated–it’s a chemical reaction. After letting your piece sit in the Pickle for a few minutes, you can take it out–with copper (absolutely no steel in the Pickle) tongs!!! Don’t touch a piece of metal with Pickle on it!! It can cause your skin to peel–and run it under some water and clean it with a brass-bristled brush.
Ta-dah~ My last image shows a (relatively) cleaned and soldered piece.
I found this activity to be rather fun and engaging, kind of like the Most Fascinating Subject in The World make. Perhaps that’s because both projects ask us to remix and create digital work (memes and gifs) of subject matter from our own lives. To me, projects like these illustrate how memes and gifs, while ubiquitous and rather universal, start off in the personal and individual. It takes one person to notice something or tilt their perspective just so to create them. More, these projects provide opportunities for participation in remix culture in ways we can relate to on a personal level. I mean, we’re remixing parts of our lives, right? Adjusting the lights and the angles and making magic~
I’ve noticed that a lot of our discussion in class and in our blog posts has revolved around whether or not digital art is “Art.” Pointless conversation to tbh but I digress~ So, I made a gif to represent my feelings on the matter–Art is what you make of it. It’s what I make of it. It’s what we make of it. Just the ideal that real art has to be on a pedestal and labelled probably has every artist from Van Gogh to Duchamp to Rauschenberg to Roth and then some rolling in their graves.
Honestly, get out of here with that elitist nonsense. Art is what you make of it but it’s also historically been about challenging preconceived notion and the status quo and about calling bullsh*t on bullsh*t. If selfies, memes, and, of course, gifs aren’t doing at least one of those things, then idk what is???
In my first post exploring digital art, I compared it to a kind of neo-Dadaism, calling it Degenerate Art 2.0. In the rise of this new medium, I see traces of a desire to respond to the growing absurdity of the world and the action’s of world leaders >.> with absurdity and nonsense which is something Dada itself sought to do. In many ways, Dada the 1st was a response to the absurdity of WWI, to all of these countries typically regarded as pinnacles of culture and of society fighting over 50 feet of mud. How do you create art after that? Dada showed us how.
From there, I explored the place of the selfie in digital art. In my post breaking down the history of the selfie, I talk about whether or not the selfie even constitutes as work of art. Survey said: not only yes, but that it constitutes a whole new genre of art. For the first time in a long while, new digital media has lowered the boundary for entry into the art sphere as well as created a whole new genre for it. The selfie is the art of the people, created for us by us. More, it has created a whole new kind of communication between us as well as a new way to be introspective. For those of you who have reservations about that claim, I highly suggest you check out my post on the matter as well as check out the Selfie section of the Digital Art Referencium~
If you still have doubts, I suggest you explore the #SelfieUnselfie make. To me, this is one of the most meaningful projects I’ve participated in. I explain why in more detail in my post reflecting specifically on the project but, in short, I think this project captures the essence of what selfies could be while also emphasizing their limitations. If there’s one thing our segment on Digital Life revealed, it’s that’s it is very easy to get caught up in the innovation and the glitz and the glamour of new online spaces and forget that we’re all still people behind our screens with insecurities and agendas and flaws and faults and so many other aspects of ourselves that would look damning under a microscope. More, there are parts of ourselves to appreciate and that can be appreciated without the easy outside validation digital platforms can so easily provide. The internet allows us to be so much more than ourselves but that doesn’t mean who we are offline matters any less.
After discussing the seflie, came good ol’ memes and gifs or, as I like to refer to them, the sprinkles of the internet~
I discuss my thoughts more in depth about memes in this post and about gifs in this post but ultimately I believe that gifs and memes truly embody that neo-Dada essence I mentioned earlier. They tap into that seemingly universal acknowledgement that the world is a pretty absurd place and turn it into art. And though many corporations are beginning to use memes and gifs for advertising purposes (as mentioned by Amy whose style I love and Michael in our studio visit this week), they are fairly democratic medium, another form of art that is made by the people for the people. A culture of remix and reciprocity has really risen up around these mediums as well, memeing the meme a fun make but also popular practice these days.
Tide Pods, anyone??? Stranger things, huh??
Overall, I find digital art to be an emergent and exploratory new medium for creation and reimagining and remixing. There has been and will continue to be a lot of trial and error but I think it is coming into it’s own. I mean, look at how many gif artists there are now? You or I could be the next big thing~
*For those who don’t know, I also write poetry. This semester, I’m actually taking a course on poetry. In this image, you can see some of the poems I’m working on for my collection. For me, every poem is both a beginning and an ending–I live my poem, yes, but it’s also where my feelings end up. More than that, though, poetry is what life sounds like, yeah?
*So… dis my cat~ Her name’s Dove and she’s kind of dopey and likes to chew on plastic. #imhallingherout #sorrynotsorry (On a serious note, what’s Felix got against cats????!! Lol for real this time, I took a photo of Dove with my phone, uploaded it to my computer, and then edited it in Paint, of all things. It wasn’t very difficult at all. The shapes are pre-made and the text is easy to overlay. 10/10 would recommend~)
*I made a thing! For anyone who doesn’t know, the open participants of NetNarr have started a project we are all welcome to participate in as well. It’s a great opportunity to practice some digital alchemy~ I remixed an old story of dark, ravenous magic. Hope you enjoy ^.^
*CrashCourse on Youtube (an educational channel run in large part by John and Hank Green) has just started a new course on Media Literacy. I think it’s pretty relevant to our course and worth a watch. Maybe an episode or two will be good to watch for class?
*Artsy Gifs is really cool to follow on Twitter. They share art-inspired gifs that I think are beautiful editions to any feed~
*I’ve almost finished reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read. I highly recommend you check out this book. It’s so relevant to the reality of racism and police brutality in America right now and it’s told through the lens of a 16-year-old, Black girl. These kinds of books that explore this kind of subject matter areso important.
The official class site for Dr. Mia Zamora’s Fall 2018 Electronic Literature course.