'Selfie STL' at PHD Gallery Explores the Selfie Phenomenon

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

In these days of the ubiquitous cellphone camera, selfies—photos taken of oneself via a mirror or outstretched arm—are as common as breath. As Jerry Saltz points out in his February 2014 article for “New York Magazine,” the selfie “is an instant visual communication of where we are, what we’re doing, who we think we are, and who we think is watching.” We take the selfie from our best side, in various stages of undress or with duck lips (or both), or maybe engaged in exciting activities or visiting amazing places, all in an effort to present a seemingly random but actually curated image of ourselves. It was only a matter of time before the selfie was explored as an art form, and it’s no surprise that PHD Gallery in St. Louis is behind it.

"Selfie STL" Courtesy of PHD Gallery

“Selfie STL”
Courtesy of PHD Gallery

PHD Gallery invited 50 St. Louisans to take part in “SELFIE STL,” the exhibit that promises to raise the selfie to new artistic heights, or at least to launch an exploration into what human motivations are behind our desire to be seen and recognized now. Nevermind waiting for a notable achievement to be recognized, the fact that we exist is reason enough. The gallery invited various members of the local art set to participate, including artists, arts administrators, photographers, academics, educators, gallerists, journalists, members of the dance and theater community, politicians, and drag queens.

The participants were given free reign on the content of their pictures, the only requirement being that the picture fit the definition of a selfie. No restrictions were placed on “nudity, common sense, good taste, or duck face,” though participants were reminded their images would be put on public display.

In his New York Magazine piece, Saltz also contends that selfies have actually changed aspects of social interaction, self-awareness, body language, privacy and humor. Moreover, they have altered, temporality, irony and public behavior. Saltz also forwards the notion that selfies having their own structural autonomy is a very big deal for art.

“Selfie STL” opens at PHD Gallery June 7 – July 19, with a free public reception on Saturday, June 7, from 7-10pm. For more information, visit the PHD Gallery website.

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