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Friday, December 03, 2021

Here’s looking at me

The modern selfie may be an old art form democratised by technology.

Written by The Indian Express |
November 21, 2013 12:27:59 am

The modern selfie may be an old art form democratised by technology.

The selfie has arrived. A few months ago,the pope appeared on one,looking slightly confused,and then Michelle Obama posted a picture of herself with the family dog. Now,in a decision that could make one vom,squee or roflmao,Oxford Dictionaries has named “selfie” the word of the year,2013. It had to beat back stiff competition from “twerk”,immortalised by Miley Cyrus,and “binge-watch”,the act of watching a lot of TV,which drew sighs of understanding all over the world. Who knew that a drunken,late-night picture taken by an exhibitionist Australian in 2002 could trigger off a cultural phenomenon.

But the selfie may be older than suspected. Long before camera phones were invented,artists were painting self-portraits. His own head was a favourite subject of the post-Impressionist painter,Vincent Van Gogh. In a confessional style similar to that of his cellphone-toting counterparts,he even painted himself with a bandaged ear — after having cut off a portion of said ear in a fit of rage. The artist Frida Kahlo scowls into her own portrait as she paints,Rembrandt squints at his image and Pablo Picasso gapes at himself in Expressionist horror. The modern selfie could be the self-portrait on the go,the democratisation of an art form with the help of technology.

Selfie was unanimously voted word of the year,which could be a damning comment on a culture that celebrates narcissism,a culture that is rapt in itself and obsessed with appearances. But the word seems to mock itself,with an “-ie” suffix that makes it sound playful and slightly sheepish. This is,after all,the age of quiffs and irony,lives and relationships have moved online. The selfie could be the closest we get to expressing the need to be loved.

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