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Curator: Manuela Lietti
Although we may be more technologically sophisticated than our ancestors, we are just like them in that we are immersed in the perpetual and challenging quest for self-knowledge.
Despite the fact that its time and place of origin is still shrouded in mystery, the adage “know thyself” is universal, placed at the foundation of knowledge and regarded as the cornerstone on which an entire philosophical system has been erected. The Greek philosopher Plato claimed, “The essence of knowledge is self-knowledge.” Centuries before him, the Hindu Upanishads confirmed that “enquiry into the truth of the Self is knowledge.” Reflecting the social, political, and cultural complexity shaping modern man centuries later, Nietzsche declared, “One’s own self is well hidden from one’s own self; of all mines of treasure, one’s own is the last to be dug up.” In contrast, André Gide cynically noted, “Any caterpillar who tried to ‘know himself’ would never become a butterfly.” Famous opinions on this matter would make a long and multi-faceted list, but regardless of which of the above viewpoints we embrace, self-knowledge is an all-encompassing journey. It is a crucial step on the path that determines an individual’s humanity and leads him to the full awareness of his being.
Self-Staging is a group exhibition presenting six artists from five countries (Canada, China, Israel, Italy, and Poland) who work in video, painting, installation, and printing to explore the self from both micro and macro perspectives. Far from being an exhaustive compendium on the topic, which would be a challenging and anachronistic task in an increasingly fragmented, decentralized reality, Self-Staging analyzes different approaches to the idea of identity through case studies. Even though the Self is no longer a monolithic entity, from certain points of view it remains unfathomable and unpredictable. The exhibited pieces declare the loss of the traditional notion of identity and react to this loss. The works investigate and question the cognitive, social, and cultural processes that shape identity; they reflect on the subtle boundary between the individual and the outside world, the private self and the public persona. As suggested by the title of the exhibition, identity is more performative than predetermined; it is related to mise-en-scène (placing on stage), combining strong theatrical elements and documenting the artist’s diverse strategies for dealing with (auto) biographical material. Artists rely on their selves and bodies in the same way that actors rely on props to become their characters. No absolute lies, but many multi-layered truths, are displayed before our eyes to assist in the ongoing epiphany of “self-editing” carried out by the artists exhibited.