A pile of boxes in an Ikea aisle tilts to the side a little too sadly and gesturally. A lumpy pebble-encrusted oval has a slit of peony pink ear flesh shining through on one side; two blank sockets as eyes. The bottom of a man’s face melts into a pastel glop of sprinkles, ice cream, and sticky red sauce, a greedy bite cutting into the side of his head where his ear should be. All of these images are of humans; a peek of flesh, fingers, or shoes — even just a human-like silhouette — there to ascertain this. But what these images, and the rest of the artfully-curated images in Gestalten’s new release Doppelganger Images of the Human Being, do is question what exactly constitutes a human portrait in a time when what it means to be, and even look like, a human is up in the air. With science on the verge of allowing us to trade in our natural forms — like shabby old suitcases — for new, technologically-augmented forms, we have to wonder at what point we’ll cease being humans and start being objects. Indeed, it doesn’t take much au naturalness these days for something, anything, to be labeled a human. Prime example: GaGa who recently took to the red carpet in a giant white egg. “There’s Lady GaGa” commentators remarked, referring to the big white orb.
The artistic approach to the human form — a constant subject since the beginning of art itself — has been constantly reconfigured throughout history. According to the preface essay on Post-Digital Identity by Robert Klanten, the rendering of the human usually changes dramatically in times of technological upheaval. During the Renaissance, when science first began locking horns with religion, the human form and its every sinew, tendon, and muscle, was studied and drawn with exhaustive scientific precision. With the dawning of the Industrial Revolution, Cubism, and Futurism, the human form was fractured into geometric pieces and interchangeable parts. Now, in this so-called “post-digital” age where we are morphing into what we Tweet, post, and blog, traditional corporeality is becoming less and less relevant. This online identity is referred to by Robert Klanten in his preface essay as “the doppelganger.” It is an extension of self that may soon overtake the self as we know it; it lives and breathes in the digital realm and instead of blood has black and white 0s and 1s coursing through its veins. This doppelganger has the means to build empires, make friends, and influence people without any physical interaction — it’s an idealized and hyperbolized identity, free to grow without flesh as a limit. So how do we embody this doppleganger and capture its essence via art? This is the question that Doppelganger poses and seeks to answer.
Ranging from embellishment and reverse tromp l’oeil to sculpture and collage, the works in Doppelganger are creative expressions of the human during this time of uncertainty. The works seek to define what drives the modern day human emotionally, sexually, physically, and philosophically. Check out more pictures after the jump. — Text by Marlo Kronberg