Queer Self Portraits Now. By Jonathan Kemp.
“I am large, I contain multitudes.” - Walt Whitman
We might ask: to what extent does the problematization of the notion of ‘self’ problematize the notion of self-portraiture? How does the plurality of the self, the unfixed performance of a necessarily fragmented subjectivity (in other words, the only kind), affect the ways we represent that ‘self’? How does it unlock, for the artist, something that art knew all along? That there are many voices singing in the cavity of your soul. When the erasure of the face becomes the greatest visibility, the loudest call for individuality, and the disparity between self and environment is at its greatest, here the self-portrait emerges, in all its multiplicity and fractured non-identity, appearing where you least expect it, saying something you might not always want to hear. The complexity of that self requires a complexity of representation, as if the camera were invented to steal the soul all along.
Which self, for example, is represented by a wall of wigs, or a pair of hairy breasts? Or standing decked in faceless black lace in the corner of a sheep pen? Or naked and bashfully laughing? How to calibrate the images so that they cohere without admitting their complexity and diversity is their coherence? That a certain sense of play, a knowledge of the fast conceal and the slow reveal, is precisely where they meet, in a joyful rupture of queer dislocation?