U - Contemporary Portraiture

August 6, 2014

There are questions which have no answer. Not because there is no answer yet. Not because the answer indubitably exists, but is secluded. And not in the least because the question itself has no meaning. This is the nature of questions which are going to be bestowed upon the public at The Unit London between September 19th and October 18th 2014. The artistic vessels for these questions will be some of the most inspirational portraits in contemporary art world.

The Unit London
Jake Wood-Evans, artwork detail

Questions of Identity

This is the key ambiguity of the contemporary notion of identity: on the one hand, it can be said that it is the question of one’s essence – “knowing” who one is; on the other hand, it is the question of how this seemingly stable notion of self is dissected by the nature of our (socio-political and cultural) surroundings. But, is it really (just) an ambiguity? Before the 19th century, it appeared to be clear. It was as “simple” as I am identical to myself or I think, therefore I am. However, this Cartesian notion was somewhat transformed after the industrial revolution, and social group became a home for identity. Therefore, the self was formed in relation to others. One could say, quite firmly believing in this, I am British or I am my father’s son, and, more importantly, this was enough. It still is for some. However, in the era of postmodernism, by the power of psychoanalysis, ideologies, gender issues and various discourses, identities lay stretched and torn into pieces. And yes – identities – there is no longer just one. And yes – we haven’t even come close to the digital world…

Hyperreality and Identities

If one would say that the search for identity is a search for meaning, where exactly is one supposed to look? In the 21st century, domains of possible existence have grown (and are growing) exponentially. There is a multiplicity of platforms, a multiplicity of social roles and of intimate relations. It seems as though there is a hollow promise of meaning to be found in another person, on Reddit, in a painting, a video, another continent or even dark back allies of the internet, and all of this because of the implosion of meaning, rendering a state beyond the possibility of differentiating anything. And here we are! This is what the artworks will try to awaken in the eyes of the spectators – has the development of social platforms diminished our chances to experience our individuality, or are we at the dawn of new extraordinary capacity for self-expression? What is certain, some extraordinary individuals have been asking themselves this very question…

The Unit London
Ivan Alifan, artwork detail

Extraordinary Guides for Identity Questioning

An event that marks The Unit London's 1-year anniversary which will introduce some of the most exciting and accomplished contemporary artists in the world today, presents an amazing ensemble of true guides through the exploration of the state of human identity in the digital age – Ivan Alifan, Mark Demsteader, Ryan Hewett, SNIK, Henrik Uldalen and Jake Wood-Evans. These artists will not show work representing a series of traditional portraits, but rather, in the words of Co-Director Joe Kennedy, a deeply psychological insight into the very contemporary notion of fractured and digitised identity. Perhaps, this was not a story of searching for a “fixed” identity or even stitching the torn fabric of oneself, but rather a story of facing the possibility that there might not be a meaning to oneself’s identity at all… Only one thing remains – to wait and then look into the mirror of the contemporary self.

The Unit London
Mark Demsteader, Shallow waters

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