More than a pout: The power of the selfie

By Megan Linehan

Entering the grand open space of the Saatchi Gallery and turning left into the first exhibition room, you are met with an unusual sight- a Rembrandt self-portrait on a T.V. screen.

The first room of the From Selfie to Self-Expression reframes the masters for the modern era, placing portraits into a screen, next to a Huawei phone (the smartphone manufacturer who teamed up with the Saatchi Gallery for this exhibition) which encourages viewers to ‘like’ the picture a la Instagram. The growth of technology has changed the way we view images, and ultimately how we as a society behave, perfectly exemplified by the exhibit.

Suddenly with technology, the power of image is not the reserve of talented painters, of photographers who can afford film, or advertisers who can pay for a billboard. Nowadays, everyone has the power to express themselves, and share it with millions online. The exhibit explores this, not only reframing the masters, but also by placing them next to selfies created by Kris Jenner (the matriarch of the infamous Kardashian clan) and various memes that undoubtedly you have seen shared across the internet (including a man who looks remarkably like Jesus).

We are in an era of democratised expression and art, where technology has opened the floodgates of pouts and poses.  And its effects are not only seen in the exhibit content itself, but also in its attendants.

In one large room, a cacophony of voices bounce off the walls, as a projection of thousands of videos (or vlogs, if you’re down with the kids) are played on loop against the walls. While this is an impressive sight- it is not the only interesting thing in the room. I helped at least three different groups of people take pictures of their silhouettes against the walls, witnessed someone film a vlog against the wall with a selfie stick, and joined in the creation of excited Snapchats.

Technology has given us the chance to express ourselves and share our world view. While selfies are often blamed for society’s down fall, they can be a tool for sharing a moment that might have been lost - even if it is only because your eyeliner looks really good that day.

An image tells a thousand words and a selfie can be shared by millions, the selfie is everywhere. The selfie is a mode of communication that should not be ignored- it’s a medium used by all, from world renowned artists to your mother accidently opening the front facing camera. A selfie can be a joke between friends or a piece of art; it’s a bodily movement that has been elevated to be a key part of this era’s cultural zeitgeist. Such a statement is validated with this exhibit. With this exhibit, the selfie has been permanently placed as a part of our culture that isn’t something to look down on; it’s an art form for all.