In a time where our idealised and public personas outweigh our real selves, a question arises: what happens when we shed the public mask and look at our reflection in the mirror? Do we like what we see, our real self, stripped of all disguise?
London-based multi-disciplinary artist Graeme Messer explores the dichotomy between our private and public persona in I Love This Motherf***er, on display at Lights of Soho until 26th November. Irreverent and witty, the show combines etching, LED technology and mirrors to take the viewer on an emotional roller coaster ride from self-doubt to self-acceptance and celebration.
1883 sat down for a chat with Graeme Messer himself to find out more about the exhibition, his background and inspirations.
Hello Graeme, thank you for finding time to answer our questions; your exhibition at Lights of Soho revolves around the dichotomy between our “real-life self” and our “social-media self”. How did the concept for I Love This Motherf***er first come about?
My work has always been self-reflective and autobiographical, so it seemed like the next logical step to start working with mirrors. In this exhibition, which is a series of twenty mirrors, I am interested in involving the visitor as a participant in the show. Seeing yourself in each of these mirrors you become the performer and the viewer at the same time. By using illuminated text in the mirrors I suggest the thoughts that may go through your head as you look at yourself. These are often intimate and personal thoughts that you wouldn’t usually share with anyone else.
What were the inspirations behind the show?
I guess I am trying to encourage honesty. We can so easily look at ourselves in the mirror and tell ourselves all sorts of self help jargon - “You are a winner” - "You are the best" - and so forth. I am interested in a different sort of self love, an honest approval that also sees all the unpleasant stuff as well. I am encouraging visitors to the show to look at themselves in the mirror and say - “In spite of it all - warts and all - I love this Mother f***er".
As you were saying, your art has often a strong autobiographical thread, and I believe the work in this exhibition makes no exception; how would you describe the relationship between your real self and your public persona?
I try as much as possible to have no difference between my public persona and my real self. If this exhibition is about anything it is about challenging people to be as real and honest with themselves as possible.
I read you have a background in theatre; how does this inform your work process?
When I was training to be an actor the primary focus was on being as emotionally open as possible. This has definitely carried over into my artwork. I am also interested in narrative, which comes from my theatrical background. I hope to take the visitor on a journey in much the same way as you would experience in the theatre.
And out of curiosity, what made you want to switch from theatre to fine art?
I don’t really see it as a switch, it is just a different way of exploring subjects that I am interested in. I guess the main difference is that now I am able to explore my own ideas more directly. In the theatre you are usually working with someone else’s script and you are helping to express the playwrights ideas. It is great to be able to do my own thing and not to be accountable to anyone else.
As a last question, what does the future hold for you?
I am working on several projects at the moment - one exciting piece involves an ongoing performance where I will have to be present during the whole duration of the exhibition. I am both excited and terrified by the idea - but I guess that is not a bad mix of feelings to have.
I Love This Motherf***er will be on display until 26th November at Lights of Soho, 35 Brewer Street London W1F 0RX
Words by Jacopo Nuvolari @jacopo982