Searching the web for author Glorija Lizde (b. 1991, Croatia), whose work Persona(L) I came to know in December due to Parallel Review, I was surprised to find a particular essay accompanying her project F20.5 (2016-2018). That particular text, published at Hulu-Split, is an excerpt from Ana Peraica‘s Culture of the Selfie: Self-Representation in Contemporary Visual Culture. But before going into some of the claims it makes, a brief introduction to Lizde’s project. In her own words:
F20.5 is not the project that brought me here. It was not the project I saw back in December. However, coming across it, my instinct was to write about two major issues:
- Why do we insist on making projects that have a fundamental therapeutic structure fit into the same exhibiting discourse as any other work?
- How come a therapeutic oriented project perpetuates cliches?
I recognize that both questions can be easily dismissed, for it’s clear to me that Lizde’s F20.5 is several things at once, namely: a sincere attempt at phototherapy-based work; a sincere attempt at making a cohesive project; but, ultimately, an inauthentic project. I also understand the word “inauthentic” can sound like offensive in this context, but that’s not my intention. I empathize with these photographs, recognizing not only the universe it evokes, but also my work process from when I was a student. Nevertheless, artistic maturity comes with time and persistent work. Its consequence is originality. As Harold Bloom wrote (The Anxiety of Influence), influence can manifest itself in a defensive manner, contaminating the truth of the work, especially if and when it triggers an agonizing battle with imitation. Originality, as Bloom understands it, is not a literal source, but rather an emancipation from the influence of the Other.
Moving on to Ana Peraica‘s text. The excerpts published at Hulu-Split are from a section Peraica entitled Madness of Self-Imaging, in a chapter called From Echo’s Point of View, where she explores the idea of the self and the Other in photography. My problem with her thesis is difficult to explain. It might be just a dissonance regarding language and its use. If not, what I feel is that her arguments are difficult to follow. There’s an effort to condense a lot of information in a couple of paragraphs, then arranged into very short sections. Hundreds of references, hundreds of footnotes, but not a lot of continuity. It might be easy to read for some, but I find it betrays the complexity of the subjects at hand.
For instances, in that chapter, Peraica distinguishes between two types of media: self-reflection and self-storage. She states that Media of self-portraits can be distinguished according to their depositing qualities. The proper media of self-reflection are those in which a person sees himself alive. And these are only water, mirror, and mirror-based media. All other media, including drawing, painting and photographs produce a second order reality, serving to store the image into the picture. Her point is that selfies allow the users to be in all places at once and that mirroring capacity transforms their idea about who they are, as selves and others. But that’s it.She immediately jumps to notions about contemporary existentialism (approximately half a page) and moves on to technologies of the self, etc.
In the section published at Hulu-Spirit, Peraica references several authors in order to establish analogies between photography and psychoanalysis. Freud, Bergstein, Benjamin, Krauss, Huberman, etc. The paragraph first published to accompany Lizde’s work reads like this:
The thing is psychoanalytic theory is a sort of meta-language. Its relation to photograph is by means of that and also its profound connection with the idea of self and representation (therefore reflection and mirrors). That doesn’t necessarily mean photography has a direct analogy to psychoanalytic processes. It also doesn’t mean every time an author addresses the optical unconscious or the mirror-stage he/she is evoking external devices. And because Peraica recurrently evokes the lacanian mirror-stage and its importance to the foundation of an idea of self and other, I have to say I miss a reference to Nebreda. His work couldn’t be a more poignant expression of a failed mirror-stage. Referencing Mary Bergstein (Mirrors of Memory: Freud, Photography and the History of Art) Peraica claims that photography as a medium might have influenced the development of different theories of Freudian analysis, such as: fetishism, magical thinking, surrogacy and animism. She supports this claim quoting an analogy Freud made between mental processes and photography. In Freud’s words (Resistance and Suppression; General Theory of the Neuroses; A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis):
For what I can understand, Peraica argues that the selfie culture is one that is “ahistorical, non-narrative and non-critical”. As a consequence, young people who are immersed in that culture (and also in being approved, recognized and liked) are slaves to the effects of reflection. Their images become proofs of their existence, as if there was only a technological reality, not a bodily one. I guess what I’m trying to question here is the need to implicate psychoanalysis in the essence of photography. I struggle to see the connection. Psychoanalysis is a treatment done by means of language. As a meta-language, psychoanalytic theory does contribute to the symbolic creation of visual universes. It expands our visual archetypes. But, at their core, do they reference one another?