This year marked the fourth incantation of the UQ Art Museum’s ‘National Artists’ Self-Portrait Prize,’ inviting artists to explore modes of self-expression and to reflect on the individual in society. Self portraiture has undergone many changes over the last century where the medium is no longer tackled with the traditional paint to canvas approach. It has seen a revolution which may be attributed to intervention of digital technology and the influence of social media. In Remix.Post.Connect we are invited to examine how the “selfie” has become a new phenomenon in light of how we digitally present our self to the world.
Darren Sylvestor deals with the paradigm of the digital age. Meis a film featuring branded couples engaging in a continuous discussions about the internet, online dating, twitter, as well as many other social media platforms. This work is framed in a digital age where the imposition of digital technology comes before, or replaces human contact altogether. The conversations which take place in the film are uncomfortable to watch, perhaps due to the fact that it encapsulates a broad reflection on society.
Other entrants featured pieces where the physical presence of the artist remained absent from their work, including works by James Dodd, Tom O’Herm and more. Archie Moore, for example, reinvents himself in the form of a taxidermy dog. The title of this work, Black Dog was the childhood nickname given to Moore, and it is through this alias the artist discloses his inner turmoil of growing up with racism.
Meanwhile, Kate Mitchell and Chris Bennie are present in their video performances. Mitchell’s video piece, Getting Though It, concentrates on the futility of everyday actions. Here, the artist sets herself the tireless task of climbing a ladder with no end. Bennie on the other hand, engages with his surroundings, bringing light to his domestic environment.
A tender balance between life, death and renewal is present in Nell’s work, Summer, the winner of this year’s prize. Summer becomes the documentation for the destruction of one of her earlier works, a human sized fly. After spending almost ten years in storage the artist explains, “It was time for the fly to die.” Nell presents her process of grieving by beating the oversized fly with a cricket bat. Informed by her Buddhist practice, this piece encapsulates the cycle of life. Judge Blair French wrote that this piece has a cathartic quality, it is “angry and tender all at once.” This somewhat destructive act becomes a means for harmonic balance between life and death, and time for acceptance.
While this is only a partial review, with only some of the thirty-eight artists mentioned, many artists explored the relationship between art and identity and the use of self-portraiture as a means to achieve this. The artists featured in,Remix.Post.Connectnot only examined the prevalence of this media driven society, but also shared delicate insights into their own psyches, and also into their surroundings.
Image : Nell, Summer, 3min video (2012). Courtesy: the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.