We’ve just returned from a visit to this fabulous exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery.
According to its brochure, “From Selfie to Self-Expression” is “the world’s first exhibition exploring the history of the selfie from the old masters to the present day, and celebrates the creative potential of a form of expression often derided for its inanity”.
The first room shows self-portraits of Rembrandt, Edvard Munch, Picasso, Matisse and many of the other greats on i-Phone shaped large electronic displays with actual i-Phones to their bottom right-hand side, showing the Greats’ made-up Instagram profiles with 34,146 likes on the Picasso selfie, and so on. Hilarious.
The whole things spreads over three floors, and it gets even better, the further you progress through the many rooms filled with exhibits.
We were particularly fond of the exhibit in Gallery 3: “Hello World! Or: How I Learned to Stop Listening and Love the Noise”, a large-scale visual installation by artist Christopher Baker. The floor-to-ceiling screens around three sides of the walls of this room show more than 5,000 video clips that the artist extracted from social media, exploring interconnectivity.
In another room there are three i-Phone shaped large surfaces that film whoever is standing in front of them, showing the video they’re taking, and then, suddenly, they use electronic gimmicks to make your eyes – on the video only, luckily – burst into cold, slow moving flames, rather scary, but cool visual effect.
The best bit comes towards the end, in Gallery 10, where Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer collaborated with Polish video artist Krysztof Wodiczko to create ‘Zoom Pavillion’. You’re being filmed by a set of surveillance cameras that are driven by face recognition and sophisticated algorithms. The screens show videos and stills of you and the other persons in the room, zoom in and out, draw lines between them with comments like ‘intimate’ or ‘interesting’, it’s totally surreal and surprisingly exciting and intense.
We also loved the celebrity and autograph hunter shots, including the ones from the Oscars, with Schwarzenegger, and with Brangelina. The well-known fake selfies of the diver just about to be devoured by Great White, or the Boeing 737 pilot taking a selfie with a selfie-stick held out of the cockpit of his airplane mid-flight couldn’t be allowed to be missing, of course.
It’s impressive to see the world’s first selfie, taken by the owner of a photo studio on top of a New York skyscraper in the 20s of the last Century. You had to have strong arms to hold the device back then.
Another highlight was an interactive set-up consisting of what looked like batches of artificial cow-hair-look-alike fibre or something on an area on the wall, that changed its colours from white to black according to the silhouette of your body detected by the camera above it. Great fun.
We’d highly recommend you try to make it to this exhibition before it closes in a few days. (Unless it gets extended again. Initially it was going to close on 30th March this year.)