Self-portraits have adapted from a historical reference - 16th century recognisable paintings (portraying artists’s skill and virtuosity) to which nowadays one could allude to as a photograph; to a characteristic expression of an artist; and as of recently, portraits became a part of the ‘selfie’-infused culture. Dancing With Myself, an exhibition hosted by Punta della Dogana in Venice which showcases 145 works across differentiated media proposes a new take on individual - an artist avoiding fatalities of death by becoming a part of their own work, portraying themselves in varying ways with contrasting media, which seems to be more relatable today than ever.
In juxtaposition to the backdrop of Venice from every window, the art works juggle the modernity and former past, the artistic experimentation and distinctiveness of each. Punta della Dogana with its immense space and open apertures casting shadows, provides a breath of fresh air and capacity to stand alone for each piece. The works curated by Martin Bethenod and Florian Ebner are chosen from intersection of celebrated artists, such as Gilbert & George to Damien Hirst and Cindy Sherman (Pinault Collection) just to mention a few, alongside with works of Nan Goldin and John Coplans among many others from the Folkwang Museum (Essen).
By merging the works in a collaboration between Museum Folkwang and Pinault Collection, a great opportunity arises, where the viewer can become a witness of internationally acclaimed artists standing strong together - approximately 100 works from the Pinault Collection - from Claude Cahun to LaToya Ruby Frazier. Moreover, the other 45 pieces were specifically featured for Punta Della Dogana (and were not seen in the first version of the show presented in Essen).
Certain works are grouped together - that of Nan Goldin and Latoya Ruby Frazer - both self-portraits offer the faces of tormented, yet strong women. Frazer’s Self Portrait (Lupus Attack), taken in 2005, her face swollen, hair out of place, the intensity she stares back into the viewer with, yet intimate, as if one is a part of her suffering. Goldin’s self-portrait Nan One Month After Being Battered (1984) offers even a more vivid display into her confidential life, fiercely showcasing her battle. Both artists acquiring a loud voice in a silent room full of spectators.
One of the works which was particularly interesting, a black and white video Live Through That?! by Lili Renaud-Dewar, where the artist have merged performance art, film and interactive presence. Lili Reynaud-Dewar dances naked, her body painted dark; moving through the empty exhibition rooms. The video mesmerises the viewers with its provocative display, yet the softness with which the artist integrates into the artwork at the museum. Her dance is an extension of the art pieces themselves - blurring the lines between the personal and the public. Her collective language is not easily understood but it is felt, as if she is dancing in the room and not on the projected screen.
Dancing With Myself conveys and examines further the interest in socio-cultural influences
that everyone endures. From a classical notion of a self-portrait to a modern front-camera- mobile-device addiction, the exhibition captures the impossibility to represent the
‘essential’ or ‘true’ identity, whether an artist or not. The exhibition imposes a challenge to distinguish the self-portrait, self-representation or simple role-playing within each art piece.
by Masha Mitrofanova