Review: From Selfie to Self-Expression @ Saatchi Gallery, London

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Don’t miss the last days of From Selfie to Self-Expression — an exposition of self-portraits and interactive installations cataloging the original ‘selfies’ to the present mania. 

The very essence of this exhibition is to bring all self-expression, including work from as early as the 17th century, into the current selfie movement. Exhibited across two floors the primary galleries introduce the works of Frida Kahlo, Van Gogh, and Picasso. Paintings are ironically displayed on large phone screens, with heart symbols calculating the amount of ‘loves’ each portrait receives from visitors — even the Renaissance artistes cannot escape the impulsive Instagram culture!

Interestingly, From Selfie to Self-Expression covers the full breadth of true self-expression, and everything that is wrong with faux expression. Chicago-based artist Christopher Baker’s, Hello World! Or: How I Learned to Stop Listening and Love the Noise is a series of opinion-style YouTube and MySpace videos covering three walls. The cacophony of voices produces an indistinctive mutter. Within the dark space of the installation only light falling from the gallery entrance offers an escape from being ingested by the diapason of sounds.

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Contemporary selfie culture — whether considered a step back for mankind or a revolution — motivates the question: what is an image worth now? 93 million selfies are taken every day, and the numbers of likes, loves, and shares on those is exponential. George Harrison’s famous 1966 fisheye effect selfie at the Taj Mahal, Benedict Cumberbatch photobombing U2, and the first space self-portrait line the white walls of galleries four and five at Saatchi HQ, where the overriding theme is the currency of photos in celebrity culture.

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A particularly unnerving display is Zoom Pavilion by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Krzysztof Wodiczko. A surveillance darkroom where robotic zoom cameras focus in on gallery visitors. The cameras then project onto large screens measuring attraction and interest — a disconcerting reminder that the lens is always watching us.

Another section of the exhibition is dedicated to participants of the #SaatchiSelfie Competition. More than 14,000 submissions were received. Notably Ola Walków’s selfie of felt-tip marks on her breasts serves as a mnemonic for the ill-disposed perception that images are true, whether on advertisements or Instagram.

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With only a few days to see From Selfie to Self-Expression we highly recommend getting down to Saatchi Gallery. This world-first selfie exhibition is much more than images; it’s provocative and obliges us to criticise the value of aesthetics.

We gave it 4 / 5 mangos.

From Selfie to Self-Expression is showing at Saatchi Gallery until September 6, 2017.

For more details about the gallery see below:

Saatchi Gallery

Duke of York’s HQ

King’s Road

London, SW3 4RY

Gallery Opening Times: 10am-6pm, 7 days a week, last entry 5:30pm