Galeria Nara Roesler | New York is delighted to inaugurate its 2020 exhibitions program with a group show titled Archaeologies of the Selfie, curated by Luis Pérez-Oramas. The exhibition comments on today’s phenomenon of mass image production and dissemination arguably conflated in the recent genre of the selfie. Luis Pérez-Oramas begins by contextualizing the case of the selfie through two concurrent ideas: Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of Middle-Brow Art and the narcissistic autarchy of the individual. Following Bourdieu's approach, Pérez-Oramas situates the selfie as a symptom of the social use of photography, whereby we can all become photographers by having access to devices that produce easy and increasingly perfect images. Concomitantly, the narcissistic autarchy of the individual addresses the social use of photography as a means of self-representation – either realistic or fantasized – and as a token of one’s existence.
From this perspective, one can establish an archaeology of the selfie beginning with the fantasized image of Narcissus’ luring and ultimately fatal reflection. Archaeologies of the Selfie thus emerges from this archè, not as an exhibition of photographs nor of selfies, but rather as a curatorial commentary on the dialectic of self-representation and image obliteration – in Pérez-Oramas’ words, as an exercise of ‘deconstruction of the selfie and reconciliation with slow imagery.’
The core pieces, or historical anchors, of Archaeologies of the Selfie are two paintings: Sun Photo as Self-Portrait (1969) by Antonio Dias – because ultimately all selfies are self-portraits – and Untitled (1961) by Tomie Ohtake, which she painted wearing a blindfold and while being explicitly self-referential in its making, nonetheless results in an obliterated image. These markers are exhibited with pieces by Milton Machado, Cao Guimarães, Paulo Bruscky, Wesley Duke Lee, Vicente de Mello, André Severo and Vasco Szinetar – each of which inherently explores, in their process of making, medium or in their imagery, the different ways in which the self has been depicted, referenced, imagined, obliterated or defied over time. Archaeologies of the Selfie will present pieces from the enduring matter that is the rhetoric around the self, reinvigorated today by the nature of contemporary image production, positioning the selfie within an art historical trajectory that has accompanied this social, anthropological and psychological phenomenon.