Studio 1: The Divided Selfie

Studio brief

Punning on the title of R.D. Laing’s controversial book The Divided Self the studio will set out to explore artistic practices that engage with identities, self-perceptions and the role of these in our virtual and lived lives. It's aimed at all students and is not medium-specific.

The Divided Self, first published in 1960, aimed to "make the process of going mad understandable" and discussed the schizoid subject as one whose experience is split. Increasingly, many of us may identify with the notion of a split self or as an accumulation of selves. In the selfie culture in which we live, online lives (and by implication real lives), are increasingly bound up with a plethora of representations. These selfies - through which people present to known and unknown others a construct of who they are, or who they might wish to be, or who they might wish others to think they are - have become a way to promote ourselves and identify ourselves.

The studio will engage with these ideas, questioning how these new orthodoxies affect our practices not only in terms of subject matter, but also in terms of strategies of making. For example, we will consider artists’ performances of the self, the notion of performance for camera and appropriation. We will also consider as artists what our strategies for making and presenting might be in a world where many strategies traditionally seen as belonging to the artist are now available to all.

Underlying the studio will be a consideration of narcissism, a word frequently bandied about in the media in relation to society in general and to millennials and artists in particular. We will look at practices that engage with narcissism and the acting out of so-called narcissistic fantasies. Can the concern with narcissism be seen as a liberating act, a radical undoing of the traditional and prevalent Western notions of identity as fixed and singular? Or is it merely a display of symptoms, an acting out of fragile selves in an ever increasingly self-absorbed culture and a continual search for recognition and reassurance through an audience whether that be online or in the art gallery? 

Artists to look at

Pipillotti Rist, Omer Fast, Mike Kelley, Hito Steyerl, Kim Noble, Eddie Peake, Amalia Ulman, Elizabeth Price, Dickie Beau, Rachael Maclean, Frances Stark, Louise Hervet and Chloe Malliet, Mary Kelly, Tamy Ben Tor, Chris Morris, Chris Ware, Ryan Trecartin, Alex Bag, Seth Price, Andy Kaufman, Benedict Drew, Marina Abramovic, Molly Soda, Adam Curtis.

Reading list

The Divided Self, R.D. Laing
Art and Psychoanalysis, Maria Walsh
Bad New Days: Art, Criticism, Emergency, Hal Foster
Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship, Claire Bishop
Freud for Beginners, Richard Appignanesi
Body Art, Amelia Jones

Documentary photograph of the Budapest Smile Club anti-suicide initiative (1937) published in Het Le


Course Fine Art BA (Hons)
Dr Jonathan Whitehall
Where Central House, second floor studios
When Monday and Thursday

Amir Gafori
Rowan Gatherer
Rhys Laird
Jadine Lambert
Elizabeth Norris
Anna Oczkowicz
Samuel Robinson' Thorley

Rebecca Aymar
Isabella Dyson
Serena Geromel
Anna Mahoney
Merlin Massara
Maria McIntyre
Rachael McMeekin
Ilja Nikiforovs
Milda Stasaityte
Evelina Tamulionyte
Chelsey Theobald
Madinah Thompson

Fine Art