Boundary-Meeting Waves; or, the Identity as it meets the Edge of the Digital

In 2015, Carla Gannis released The Selfie Drawings, a set of digital drawings expressing “the self”. It was then expanded in 2017, forming the narrative basis for Gannis’ 2017 exhibition: Until the End of the World.

Electronic Graveyard No.2, The Upload (2015)
As seen in the HD 3D animated video (2017).

From the Origin to the year 10 000, the exhibitions shows an imagined evolution of humanity, a sort of apocalypse in which “you ain’t need no husband” because you can have virtual children, et cetera.

Courtesy of Carla Gannis. Titled Origins of the Universe, it is a 3D-printed re-interpretation of the Courbet’s 1866 painting. It implies that the cell(phone) is the origin, which is technically not wrong, in being the origin of your existence as a digital object.

As Wittkower aptly states, many things “might seem to mean nothing, and yet be taken to mean something”. Your virtual children are only real when you perceive them to be so. With this in mind, the seemingly surrealist images can be perceived as more than nothing, as a presentation of the self, albeit in a stranger form, but perhaps also truer in being able to manipulate new mediums to express yourself in different ways.

Related image
Interestingly, this Physics diagram, on different ways in which waves can meet boundaries, provides a strangely clear (and thought-provoking!) analogy on the different presentations of the self which can manifest when crossing from reality to the digital realm.
Courtesy of Carla Gannis. As aforementioned, the digital world allows for impossible portrayals of the self, from floating in the air to breathing fire. It could mean nothing but absolute insanity, or it could be a step into understanding yourself through the ability to portray yourself through other means.

However, there is a caveat in the overriding of the actual self.  “They made monsters of themselves which they could not tolerate nor do without,” says the voiceover of the 1991 movie of the same name. Without regard for the physical space they focus on the digital self, a somewhat revolting notion.

Nevertheless, as Deresiewicz suggests, it is not possible to “develop the capacity to have a sense of self separate from the community” without a certain level of isolation. This explains why we accept this form so readily: Though teeming with others, the digital realm can also be your own, allowing you to explore yourself, which is craved in a world where “you” are not important (Schopenhauer, 2014).

Red Samsonite by Carla Gannis, as presented in The Selfie Drawings in the exhibition. The depiction of the self can be easily changed and warped in the digital world, as one explores what it means to be “me”, away from the noise of society.

Certainly, Gannis’ work reflects the new forms of self available in the digital identity, and how we still engage in it because of its appeal, even if it may seem vaguely self-destructive.

(Featured image from 1991’s Until the End of the World. Claire’s psychedelic dream, which probably inspired the madness of Gannis’ portrayal, in that dreams are not unlike the unconscious mind.)

  • Deresiewicz, W. (2009). “The End of Solitude”. in The Chronicle of Higher Education. (link) (as referenced by Wittkower)
  • Gannis, C. (2015). “The Selfie Drawings”. on Carla Gannis. (link)
  • Gannis, C. (2017). “Until the End of the World”. on Carla Gannis. (link)
  • Gannis, C. (2017). “Until the End of the World”. on Vimeo. (link)
  • Schopenhauer, A. (2014). “On the Vanity of Existence.” in Studies in Pessimism. The University of Adelaide. (link) (as referenced by Wittkower)
  • Wenders, W. (1991). “Until the End of the World”. (around 0:50:00 to 0:53:00 of a certain kind-of-illegally uploaded Part 3, don’t sue me thank you)
  • Wittkower, D.E. (2010). “A Reply to Facebook Critics”. in Facebook & Philosophy: What’s on Your Mind?. Open Court. (link)

Published by

EC Chee

a local peanut (◡‿◡ )

One thought on “Boundary-Meeting Waves; or, the Identity as it meets the Edge of the Digital”

  1. I am very impressed with your comparison of Gannis’ work with the inspiration of the project, the film by Wim Wenders, “Until the End of the World.” Just as Claire seeks to find herself in the imaginary construction of her dreams, Gannis looks to her digital self for introspection, analysis, and prediction of our future. So one thing I would have like to have seen you discuss here, is how Gannis’ artistic critique of the self as portrayed through her selfies by situating them in virtual environments, relates to the malleability of identity whether portrayed in the digital realm or in the space of our dreams. Very well researched and written!!

Leave a Reply