The Fusion of Identity and Idolatry
May 12- July 8 2018
Curated by Jicky Schnee
In Greek mythology, Narcissus, a hunter known for his beauty, was proud to disdain those who loved him. The goddess Nemesis, who enacted retribution on those who succumbed to hubris, noticed this and attracted him to a pool of water where he saw his own reflection and fell in love with it. Unable to leave the beauty of his own reflection, he stared at it until he lost his will to live and died. It is from this myth that the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself, one’s physical appearance or public perception, derives.
In western culture today there seems to be no end but even an ever-increasing phenomenon of self-fixation as evidenced by the current fashion of ‘selfies’, Instagram, Facebook and other new and evolving methods of social media. These celebrate a culture of making each person the center of their own universe in which people post not only the most trivial minutiae --where they went, what they ate, how long they had to stand in line--but also the most private information about one’s life--a family member's death, depression, addiction, and more. Why do we feel the need to share? Is it that we feel minimized in a world that is increasingly corporate in all aspects that we seek to preserve some aspect of individuality? Is it that technology has so over-connected us that we are overwhelmed by how small we feel in the globalized world of the internet? Or maybe that the world is over-populated and like teenagers tagging a wall in an act of vandalism, we seek to leave some mark that we have been here and mattered? Or perhaps is it simply a case of "everyone else is jumping off the bridge" so we decide to join them? And in this ever-increasing self-absorption, have we become like Narcissus?
In the Old Testament, Moses returned from Mt. Sinai after forty days and nights to deliver the ten commandments; he arrived to find that the crowd, left to their own devices, had turned a golden calf into their new idol, dancing around it, signing its praises and making offerings. In our fixation with both self and public perception, have we turned our own identities into the newest form of idolatry— fusing them into a type golden calf—that is shiny, enticing, temporarily sustaining but essentially empty? And as with Narcissus and his punisher, Nemesis, will this self-absorption and adulation become the inescapable agent of our own downfall? Finally, as Narcissus detached from reality into his own reflection, have we become so entranced and detached ourselves that we are no longer capable of real objectivity?