Century of the Self

Selves-1024x691

Untitled (selves), 2011, works on paper, each 20 x 15. Photo by Josh White.

Century of the Self is a multifaceted series dedicated to exploring ideas of how the “self” is created and affected by both psychology and the marketing of consumer goods, inspired by the documentary by that name by Adam Curtis.  Grant has written a text on the documentary and Edward Bernays (Freud’s nephew who coined the phrase and created the field of public relations) for Rabble, an imprint of Inset Blanc Press:

www.insertblancpress.net/collections/rabble/products/rabble-alexandra-grant

If Alexandra Grant’s last series with the writer Michael Joyce, bodies, explored how a woman text-painter would represent both the feminine body and the female experience of the body, and her collaboration with Hélène Cixous, the Forêt Intérieure/Interior Forest was based on the concept of the “perfect Other,” than the Century of the Self, in philosophical terms, can be seen as trying to define the self as a step or bridge between the physical body and the concept of Other.

Grant represents the self as a collage — a constantly-shifting surface created by layering banal and literary phrases (from Shakespeare’s “To thine own self be true” as well as catchy lines like “I see myself in you”) and ink-blots (in reference to Hermann Rorschach’s famous test, body scans and the female anatomy as sites of projection).  This multi-year, multi-disciplined body of work was begun in 2010, and is still ongoing, encompassing paintings, drawings, sculpture, video, photography and collaborative clothing line.

Self_(I_was_born_to_love)

Self (I was born to love), after Antigone and Audre Lorde, 2012, mixed media on canvas, 96 x 72. Photo by Brian Forrest.

One of the most commonly recurring phrases in the series is “I was born to love, not to hate,” from Sophocles’s Antigone. In the play, Antigone stands up to the patriarchal system of government and law as embodied by her uncle Creon, demanding that her brother be accorded a burial.  Feminist writers such as Ellyn Kaschak proposed (in her 1993 book “Engendered Lives: A New Psychology of Women’s Experience”) an Antigonal model of psychology, an alternative to Freud’s theories of human development based on the Oedipus or Elektra complex. By painting this voice of Antigone’s as well as many other sometimes contradictory phrases, Grant is showing the nuanced and complex nature of the self, specifically a feminine, poetic sense of being.  Walt Whitman’s “I contain multitudes” and Arthur Rimbaud’s “Je est un autre” (“I is someone else”) also figure prominently in the Century of the Self works, asking viewer to consider the shifting nature of the self, who the “I” is in any given moment, and the power relationships, often gendered, in defining the self and the Other. The above works are an example of one phrase used in the series. Another is the less literary, “I see myself in you,” part neon and part mirror, as installed at LAND’s exhibition “Painting in Place”:

Grant, Alexandra_I see my self in you 2013_AG13-0032

I see my self in you, 2013, coated glass tubing, argon gas, transformer and mirror, 51 x 16 x 2″. Printed by Lapis Press.

These phrases, from both literary and more popular sources like song lyrics, are combined and layered in the largest works in the series:

Self_(I_was_born_to_love_not_to_hate)

Self (I was born to love not to hate), 2012, oil on linen, two panels, each 72″ x 48″.  Photo by Brian Forrest.

Grant_Century-of-the-Self-1-2013-562x1024

Century of the self (1), 2013, mixed media on paper and fabric, 136 x 72. Photo by Brian Forrest.

Walt Whitman’s phrase, “I contain multitudes” can be seen in the bottom right corner of Century of the self (1), 2013.

Grant_Century-of-the-Self-1-2013-detail-663x1024

Century of the self (1), detail, 2013, mixed media on paper and fabric, 136 x 72. Photo by Brian Forrest.

Grant_Century-of-the-Self-2-2013-580x1024

Century of the self (2), 2013, mixed media on paper and fabric, 136 x 72. Photo by Brian Forrest.

Grant_Century-of-the-Self-2-2013-detail-683x1024

Century of the self (2), detail, 2013, mixed media on paper and fabric, 136 x 72. Photo by Brian Forrest.

Grant_Century-of-the-Self-3-2013-575x1024

Century of the self (3), 2013, mixed media on paper and fabric, 136 x 72. Photo by Brian Forrest.

Grant_Century-of-the-Self-3-2013-detail-617x1024

Century of the self (3), detail, 2013, mixed media on paper and fabric, 136 x 72.  Photo by Brian Forrest.

Grant_Century of the Self (4), 2014

Century of the self (4), 2014, mixed media on paper and fabric, 136 x 72.

Grant_Century of the Self (4), 2014 detail

Century of the self (4), detail, 2014, mixed media on paper and fabric, 136 x 72.

Grant_Century of the Self (5), 2014

Century of the self (5), 2014, mixed media on paper and fabric, 136 x 72.

Grant_Century of the Self (5), 2014 detail

Century of the self (5), 2014, mixed media on paper and fabric, 136 x 72.