Table of Content


1. Aristotle’s Concept of Essence

2. Likeness as
Representation of the Self

3. Wittgenstein’s
Concept of Family

4. Likeness as
of “self”

5. Master of Arts Art Exhibition




The Representation and Reality of the Self in Art

Chapter 5. Master of Arts Art Exhibition


The title of my M.A. exhibition that was produced in conjunction with this written thesis was “brokenFIXED: (de)constructing the Image of the Self”. The exhibition was presented at California State University, Long Beach Art Office Gallery, September 9-14, 2001. The exhibition featured, as a conceptual multimedia installation, twelve drawings and a computer monitor which screened my interactive web site.

The inspiration for my work on the installation was the concept of computational self, which defines self as an information system that could be reproduced by the computer. However, upon completion of the art project and art exhibition, I arrived at the conclusion that representation of computational self is only one of the possible interpretations of my self-portraits.

Since the intended subject of my art project was to present the computational self, I decided to use duality -- the fundamental characteristic of the digital world -- as a crucial element in the structure of the installation. There were two media of artistic expression - drawings and interactive web design. Two pencil studies were used to create all drawings - one self-portrait facing audience with outstretched arms, other turning back with raised hands. The installation of drawings was symmetrically balanced on two sides, set left and right of the computer screen. All the drawings were the same size, but half were vertical and half were horizontal, install to alternate with one another. I also framed drawings two by two as diptychs, and I included two definitions of the self in the exhibited webs site. I hoped that viewers would perceive the work as references to a conceptual interpretation of the computational self as opposed to making specific references to a physical form.

The web site

I wanted to create a multimedia installation inspired by the concept of computational self, which included a web site designed as interactive self-portrait. The website consisted of three parts: HTML web page with JavaScript rollover, Flash introduction and Flash web site. Computer applications I used for creation of the web site were Macromedia Dreamweaver 4, Macromedia Flash 5 and Adobe Photoshop 6.

I created the HTML web page and introductory JavaScript rollover in Macromedia Dreamweaver 4. The interactive rollover contained two images, with code written in JavaScript which instructed the browser to swap images on mouse rollover. The original image which appears when the page is loaded was developed from a digital slide of my self-portrait painted in oil on canvas. I created a second image, in which the painting appears to be shattered, in Adobe Photoshop 6. The two images were set up to replace one another in reaction to the mouse. The self-portrait seems to break apart when the user rolls the mouse over it and repairs when the user moves the mouse out of the area of the image. The intention was to illustrate the title of the art exhibition: “brokenFIXED: (de)constructing the Image of the Self”.

I created the animated introduction and interactive web site in Macromedia Flash 5, the multimedia web design software that applies animation and sound. The Flash introduction had four scenes. The first scene had a countdown and animation of a circle which transforms into the image of the eye, followed by a zoom to the pupil of the eye, and black out.
In the second scene, two definitions of the self slowly appeared across the screen. I included Dennett’s and Wittgenstein’s definitions of the self because I wanted to demonstrate that the self can have different, even opposite, meanings. The first definition was written by Daniel Dennett:

But the strangest and most wonderful constructions in the whole animal world are the amazing, intricate constructions made by the primate, Homo sapiens. Each normal individual of this species makes a self. Out of its brain it spins a web of words and deeds, and, like the other creatures, it doesn’t have to know what it’s doing; it just does it. This web protects it, just like the snail’s shell, and provides it a livelihood, just like spider’s web... [1]

The second definition was written by Ludwig Wittgenstein:

The philosophical self is not the human being, not the human body, or the human psyche, with which psychology deals, but rather the metaphysical subject, the limit of the world – not a part of it. [2]

The third scene of the introduction had reproductions of four self-portraits fading in, resizing and fading out, one after the other. Two of the reproductions were created from digital slides of my paintings, and two from digital slides of my drawings. To enable resizing of slides without losing the quality of the reproduction, I converted raster images into vector shapes.

In the last part of the introduction, the animated title “brokenFIXED” appeared in front of the rotating images of eye, ear, lips and nose. With the sound of broken glass, the animated title breaks into three parts and fades out. At the end of the introduction ActionScript automatically uploads the new Flash movie with the interactive web site.

The Flash web site was created as an electronic self-portrait. It has an interactive home page and five interactive subcategories. The illustration for the home page was a self-portrait drawn in Flash, based on the same pencil study I used to develop the exhibited ink drawings. The illustration contained four dragable movie clips containing drawings of the eye, nose, lips and ear. The dragable movie clips enabled visitors to move features of the self-portrait within the browser window, and therefore break apart, rearrange or reconstruct the self-portrait. In that way visitors had a chance to find out how much they could distort the image without losing the sense that they were looking at my self-portrait.

Links to the subcategories were illustrated with the copies of the same drawings of parts of the same self-portrait. The image of the eye was an illustration for the link to the subcategory of “Drawing”; the image of the ear for “E-mail”; the image of the lips for “Statement”; the image of the hand for “Resume”; and the image of the nose for the thesis (entitled “brokenFixed”).

The web site also featured music and sound effects. Two music samples were playing during the introduction, to enhance the visitor’s experience. Additional sound effects were playing on mouse rollovers over links in the interactive web site. Music samples and sound effects were provided by the Croatian electronic band Injury.


Since computer generated art was central to the exhibition, I wanted to create hand drawn images that could appear as computer generated. Because my goal was to create a multimedia installation that combined traditional and new media, I wanted drawings in the exhibition to function as sequential art [3], in which all drawings have to be perceived as a part of the whole. To suggest this reading to the visitors I decided to create twelve drawings, hoping that the number twelve would prompt them to perceive individual drawings as a part of a whole. To further unify the installation, I used symmetrical composition. The computer monitor was set in the center, with three diptychs on each side. Alternating horizontal and vertical orientation of the framed drawings generated a rhythmic pattern.

Another method I used to unify the installation was the repetition of the parts of the same two figures in the drawings and on the screen of computer monitor. Repetition of the image with slight variations is the technique used in creating animations, so it was consistent with the web animation featured in the interactive web site, which was an integral part of the installation.

All twelve ink drawings were developed from two self-portraits drawn in pencil on paper, originally created from direct observation, by looking at my reflection in the mirror. The pencil drawings were sketched as a combination of anatomical and geometrical schemata for the representation of my body. One drawing featured my figure facing audience with outstretched arms, the other, with back turned and hands raised to the shoulders. The pencil drawings served as a starting point for the ink drawings.

To create exhibited drawings, I used various pens with black and white ink on Bristol vellum paper size 19 inches by 24 inches. I chose to exhibit line drawings, because they exposed the underlying structure for organizing visual information, which would be hidden by further development of shading, texture and color. I created twelve new images from the two original pencil studies. I would start a drawing from a previously sketched thumbnail, but I would not trace the model exactly. I would allow space for expressive improvisation which resulted in subtle changes of in the finished drawing. In ink, I traced and developed images originally drawn with pencil, carefully re-arranging the composition, negative space and repeated pattern of the figure. On a few drawings I left out parts of the pencil study, creating figures without a face, or a face without a body. On a few other drawings, I repeated the same figure to create a sense of cloning. On one drawing I repeated the face as an abstract pattern.

The end result of this method was that I was not able to recognize the represented figure as my physical likeness. Since I perceived the drawings as self-portraits, I realized that the empty negative space was as much a representation of self, as were the figures. This lead me to realization that the meaning of the self-portrait is not contained in the image, but is created as a part of the interpretation.

This conclusion was later confirmed by visitor’s interpretations of my self-portraits. Various visitors claimed that the exhibited drawings represented: universal self, family resemblance of individual characteristic, essential self and its aspects, Jungian process of individualization, cyborgs, “information highways”, sculptures made from wire, etc. In my opinion, every visitor interpreted my self-portraits in accordance with their own world-view, even when they were interpreting the nature of the represented self. This confirmed my realization that representation of the self is a function of the interpretation of art. This served as a starting point for my philosophical research in comparing two contradictory interpretations of the self.


1. Daniel Clement Dennet, Consciousness Explained (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991.), 416.

2. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (New York, New York: Humanities Press, 1966.)

3. Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The invisible art (New York, New York: HarperPerennial, 1994), 5-21.


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© Vjeran Miljenovic, 2004.