“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts…” William Shakespeare’s 17th-century words paint a prescient and insightful picture of how we conceive and communicate identity in this global, digital age. With unprecedented access to a vast array of cultural traditions, artists today sample from histories near and far, subverting conventional images of race, ethnicity, gender, and role-playing, reinventing portraiture as a new genre. The technoculture also inspires a material and metaphoric transformation of portraiture to reflect and respond to screen-based aesthetics and to delineate the influence of social media on the perception of self and others. In a constant state of projecting and connecting, how and what do we understand about ourselves and others?
Dis-semblance examines the evolution of portraiture as a platform for capturing the ebb and flow of the mutable, hybrid self, and as a multi-faceted mirror of the fractured identities we shape, desire, and exchange in our now intertwined analog and digital lives, onscreen and off. “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us,” said theorist Marshall McCluhan, writing nearly a half-century ago about the cultural influence of the mass media. Assembling identity in the global, digital age requires integrating projections and perceptions of self and others across real and virtual platforms, within a technoculture in which we actively engage.