A new pop up exhibition dedicated to the selfie is opening in Los Angeles this spring.
Now, whether we like it or not, the selfie has become an key component of how we portray and view ourselves ‚Äî though I didn‚Äôt realise it had become quite so important that it warranted its own museum.
The creators‚Äô argument is that the selfie is part of modern culture, an inevitable product of living in a social-media driven society. And anything that important is surely worthy of further examination, right?
There is, of course, also the motivation to build on the popularity of “Instagrammable” exhibits such as the Museum of Ice Cream, or Yayoi Kusama‚Äôs Infinity room. Amid fears that interest in the art world is declining, creating installations that are social media-friendly does in a way make sense. Though establishing a whole exhibition honoring the selfie doesn‚Äôt surprise me, it does make me pretty sad.
I personally just don‚Äôt believe selfies are worthy of that much time and attention. I will say that some of the pictures included, like astronauts taking photos of themselves in space, or Jackie Kennedy taking pictures in the mirror, are quite cool. But for its whole focus to be on selfies is, I think, very strange. Social media is already causing such changes in our personal and collective psychologies ‚Äî the way we think about (and obsess over) appearances, our constant desire to find the perfect picture. Dedicating a whole space to explore and take part in selfies just feeds into a growing problem that I actually feel needs to be tackled.
The Museum of Selfies feeds into two negative ideas; firstly that things need to be Instagrammable in order to be popular, and secondly that images we take of ourselves are of elevated importance. I think what we really need is to be able to step back from our phones and to start trying to distance ourselves from our online personas.
When it comes to whether selfies should be considered art ‚Äî I don‚Äôt think so. I‚Äôm wary about this question though, because the debate around what art is, whether ‚Äòhigh‚Äô or ‚Äòlow‚Äô art should mix, what galleries should and shouldn‚Äôt show, this has been going on for years and not clear-cut. Anything that is affecting society in some way should be discussed, and we shouldn‚Äôt ignore things that are a part of our culture. If the museum was offering a real discussion around or critique of the way self-perception has changed, then I would feel differently. But I really doubt that many people going will take much away from it other than their pictures with giant pieces of food or posing in a room of mirrors.
Is the only way we can make people interested in art really just offering them a room of selfies? Can that seriously be counted as encouraging young people to go to galleries? I don‚Äôt think galleries need to be an elitist space and I do think we should be trying to make them more accessible. But I don‚Äôt see the value of an exhibition using a popular phenomenon just to get visitors. To me it seems a dumbing down of art, a gimmick that just gives people another opportunity to live through their phones.
When you go to an exhibit and see people taking pictures of everything, forgetting to actually look at what‚Äôs around them – that‚Äôs when I think we know museums and galleries are in trouble, because art should surely be about more than the picture you can take with it.
Manager, Contemporary Art
Girl Museum Inc.