Kaleidoscopic Self

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Kaleidoscopic Self Ana Mireles 2014-­‐2015 -­‐“I've tried to become someone else for a while, only to discover that he, too, was me.”-­‐ Stephen Dunn Who am I? It is one of the oldest questions that have haunted mankind. Aristotle defined the substance of the soul as its ‘essential whatness’, thus finding the Self in the potentiality, in the activity: “Suppose that the eye were what an animal— sight would have been its soul, for sight is the substance or essence of the eye which corresponds to the formula, the eye being merely the matter of seeing; when seeing is removed the eye is no longer an eye, except in name-­‐ it is no more a real eye than the eye of a statue or of a painted figure”1. One might say that the ability to question who we are is precisely what makes us human. And from there on, many have tried to define it. Descartes expressed it with the most famous phrase ‘cogito ergo sum’ (I think, therefore I am), which became the foundation of modern philosophy and society. Current technologies like smartphones that allow us to live in the real time web have led society to answer this question by stating ‘imago ergo sum’ 2 (I photograph, therefore I am). We exist through selfies, through food porn, through the images of our private life going public on social networks. We try to understand and share who we are by showing where we are, who we are with, what we are consuming, how we look every minute of everyday. The further technology goes, the more tools we have to build our image as we prefer, but how much freedom do we really have? Cultural factors have always come into play in the construction of our identity and now, whether we realize it or not, behind this illusion of freedom and possibilities we are living in a template culture. We are just filling in predetermined profiles.

1 Aristotle, ‘On the Soul’, The Pocket Aristotle, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1958, p.66. 2 Fontcuberta, Joan, La cámara de Pandora. La fotografí@ después de la fotografía, Gustavo Gili, Barcelona, 2010, p. 17.


Maybe in a different time, when photography started, a portrait in front of the Eiffel Tower would have said plenty about the person in it, but today it is just one more piece in a pattern. Our ‘profiles’ are just new combinations of the same elements that repeat themselves until they lose all meaning. How much does an image represent us when we just do it over and over throughout the day without putting any thought behind it? Mobile photography provides us with the possibility to explore our identity by disembodying our material limitations and overcoming the time/space framework. But perhaps it also “disables vision through processes of homogenization, redundancy, and acceleration”3. The question then remains: Is photography empowering us or is it nullifying us? Are we constructing an image or are we marketing ourselves? There is a very fine line between the two and like every technological development; it is not in itself where we find the answer, but in society’s use of it. -­‐“Nonsense, Socrates; what you call repetition was the especial merit of the speech”-­‐ Phaedrus

3 Crary, Jonathan, 24/7 Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, Verso, NY, 2013, p. 33.