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art, culture and ideas

19: Self

Cover image: Milly Spooner

‘Identity is the crisis. Can't you see’
X-Ray Spex, 1978

This issue of Garageland looks at a subject that fascinates us all - ourselves.
Art and artists are central to our investigations and alongside cover artist Milly Spooner we feature self portraits, self reflection and self examination by Francisco Goya, Hilde Krohn Huse, RB Kitaj,Robert Priseman, Cristina Nuñez, Dolly Thompsett, Jane Wildgoose as well as a whole host of signature toting Names including Rose Wylie, Sara Berman and Paul Housley.

One of the defining images of contemporary culture is the selfie – the self-taken portrait that we display to show where we are and what we are feeling. We asked all our contributors to send us a selfie, which we have presented alongside a Twitter-friendly 140 character biography, in an exercise that recreates the online snapshot that so many of us use to define ourselves.

Amongst all this self-reflection it is maybe no surprise that there appears to be a crisis in our mental health, with anecdotal evidence indicating that anxiety disorders and depression are at an all time high in the UK. Could it be that too much emphasis on looking like you are having a good time actually makes it harder to have one? And are we too focused on our selves to the detriment of the wellbeing of society? In the issue Alex Michon looks to the saints to try and discover something about selflessness, specifically the complexities of Saint Augustine as revealed in his Confessions, a title that is coincidentally shared by a volume of writing that Michael Ajerman unearths in the Kitaj archives.

Elsewhere in the issue Susie Hamilton, Mary Wild and Jennifer Allen, in their respective writings on poetry, Marilyn Monroe and reality, all refer to psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s influential theories. Lacan’s identification of the mirror stage, in particular, that moment when the infant discovers his own image, is a crucial concept in ideas about the development of self.

In our film club section I look at films about actors, two of which, Opening Night (Cassavetes, 1977) and Sunset Boulevard (Wilder, 1950), show the identity problems that actresses encounter as they grow older. Cover artist and recent graduate, Milly Spooner, photographs herself amongst the paraphernalia of beautification. She explains that her photographs ‘highlight unrealistic ideals, and the exhaustion women face’, in their quest to correct imagined defects. Mike Pinnington in ‘Pretending to be me’, looks to virtual reality sites such as Second Life where people design an ideal version of themselves. ‘If you play at being something for long enough’, he says, ‘a kind of online-world and corporeal cross-pollination process will inevitably take place, so that an element of ‘you’, however small, might begin to take on more and more invented, imagined or hoped-for traits.’

Cathy Lomax

Read the Full lis of contents here

Read Susie Hamilton's complete text 'The Self in Speech' here




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