Performing the Self

Performing the self - it sounds like a paradox but let me make my case first. A few weeks back I went to Bosi Contemporary to see the performance artist Marta Jovanovic discuss a book based on her art written by Kathy Battista that is now out for purchase entitled none other than Performing the Self. As I walked throughout the accompanied exhibit that included photography, video, installation and the written word all based on and staring Marta I felt an eerie connection to my own work. After listening to Marta discuss the details that have lead to where she is today it was impossible for me to not see the similar ties between her and I. 

When she was younger she was a ballet dancer just as I was and she learned to express herself through movement and appearance. The body became a medium and tool for her to express a message. After ballet turned out to not be her choice of career she was still very connected to the body as a vessel of expression; art became a form of therapy for her as a way of understanding herself more - self awareness. I have always said that much like psychology majors who often go into the field to try and diagnose themselves the same goes for artists. Like Marta I've always considered my work to be a form of therapy for me especially considering that it is inherently about me and my experiences. Whether it's going out and taking self portraits or getting dressed that morning or writing they are all a way to express what is essentially performing the self. 

So this idea of performing the self suddenly becomes very confusing but at the same time truthful i.e. the paradox. The other day I was discussing my self portrait series with a friend and mentioned that I was tired of seeing pretty pictures of myself and wanted to see the ugliness that I feel and thus the creation of my No More Pretty Pictures set. In response they asked if I am just putting on performances since I am self aware of this decision to express specific aspects of my personality. I couldn't disagree because I am making fully aware decisions to express this and not that. To show this side of something and not the other side. Working as a model and being a photographer self awareness is a vital quality to have so now the question comes to this: is it truly possible for the self - the way that you live your life every day - to be a performance? And if it is then is there a time when the performance begins and ends? If you document the self, write about the self and analyze the self then does the self become a qualified piece of performance art or is it just an overwhelmingly warped form of narcissism?  And also when does a performance turn from a conscious falsified or fantasized show into reality? Can it really be true that life is a performance and world is our stage and in that case isn't everyone a performance artist or must you be self aware for this to be true?

These are fine lines that can fluctuate depending on who is looking at the project and the answer is that both ways of looking at it are right. A urinal can be a urinal or it can be a sculpture if put in the right context as Duchamp proved over 100 years ago. The self can be a piece of art and the self can create a piece of art, it just depends on which one you want to be and it can be both as well as Cindy Sherman proved. This topic always takes me back to the philosophy of the Art Nouveau movement that everything in your life including yourself can be a work of art. It also reminds me of Andy Warhol's famous statement "Art is whatever you want it to be" yet not everything is art. Oh the enigma of the fine art world, what a troubled career path I have chosen..... 
What are your thoughts on the subject of performing the self?