Sarah L. Kinney
“Selfies”, a series of self portraits, is inspired by photographs taken with Snapchat. In this social media app, users chat with each other using images overlaid with text, that are viewed for one to ten seconds before being deleted. Since 2011 I have sent and received over 4,500 ‘snapchats’ which I view as contemporary self portraits, holding conversations with everyone from dear friends and crushes to acquaintances and advisors.
Studying the collection of snapchats I sent during the past year through an academic lens revealed that each selfie was meticulously constructed to present a specific version of myself. Each selfie portrays a different persona, which psychologist Dr. Carl Jung asserts is the mask or appearance one presents to the world, and is a reflection of one’s current environment. For example, I display one persona to close female friends, while a distinctly different persona is presented to potential love interests.
Examining each snapchat out of its original context uncovers the complex relationship that exists between imagery and text. Snapchats in which the text and image are non sequiturs prompt the viewer to create a narrative that brings the two together, which evokes the theories of Ferdinand de Saussure, the father of semiotics. This effect is reminiscent of the “Disasters of War” print series, by Francisco Goya, in which each print is accompanied by text that cannot be reconciled easily with the image. “Selfies” expands on this precedent, using the historical weight of painting to call contemporary cultural values and practices into question.