7 months ago
A crowd gathers to watch as Paula van Beek snaps multiple selfies, adjusting her pose, fixing her outfit. We watch her review the images, scrolling through them, hunting for the perfect shot. Further technical equipment—cameras, computers and projectors—occupy the stage and van Beek takes to these to stream a projection of the performance we’ve just seen before stepping back into the space as performer, this time taking selfies aided with a mirror. Slipping in and out of multiple roles is part of the performance, drawing on tactics established by Laura Mulvey and extended by Jill Soloway to disrupt dominant ways of seeing in favour of a female gaze. As the performance continues, the layers of recordings, projections and selfies build. Van Beek calls it the Selfie Machine. It’s generative, iterative, mechanical, procedural; hypnotic, mesmerizing and delightfully confusing. Though more significantly, it recalls the machine we all function in, disembodied yet all encompassing machines of surveillance and self-veillance, of gendered performances and gendered responses.
In this work, Van Beek conjures the age of the selfie and it’s ideas of selection, curation and deletion, yet cleverly elides the Instagramification of art (selfie-friendly, colorful, easily consumed). This is a work that requires physical attendance and demands intellectual engagement. Watch me, she says. Watch me watching me, she says. That’s only step two and there are many more to go.
Paula van Beek, Selfie Machine, 2018