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Excerpt 1, SelfSame

The following is an abbreviated excerpt from my thesis, SelfSame. In this introduction I explain a bit my fascination with doubled figures.

"In the last few years I’ve been interested in images and stories of duplicated or multiplied bodies. My interest in doubles is primarily rooted in personal experience: that of growing up with an identical twin sister. Of course, twins and multiple siblings are not perfectly identical to the nail, the hair, the tooth. Despite our similarities, small differences are present. Yet ‘identical’ twins have similar bodies: bodies that provoke a strangeness in their similarity and despite their very real individuality. Images of identical bodies, such as twins, evoke a strange aesthetic— the image transcends simple representation and approaches the symbolic and metaphoric. The stories we tell about fully twinned bodies—factual and fictional— establish suggestive concepts of a compound self, the instability of identity, and questions of our distinctness as individuals(1).

Much of the work I’ve created during the process of my graduate degree is based on childhood memories and the knowledge of growing up with a double, an almost-identical sibling. However to indicate the images I have composed and produced are autobiographical would, in a way, be wrong. They are akin to a mythology of memories: based in my own experience and, to a greater degree, influenced by research into cultural and social practice. Such images are memory focused, but naturally susceptible to distancing and personal bias. Influence from popular culture, film, mythology, and research of twins and doubles have affected my work. The visual dreamscape present in this series of work is imagined through fiction as much as it is remembered from childhood. The work in my thesis exhibition, SelfSame, personalizes my relationship to ‘twinness’ not only through personal experience but also in how stories of doubles complicate selfhood and identity. This work is influenced and supported by research in mythology, film, literature and biology.

Hundreds of years of cultural material is swollen with stories of vanishing twins, compound selves, and malevolent impostors—made real in the flesh of our doubled other.

Conceptions of the double vary across cultures and through time; however a consistent thread of uncanny atmosphere and discomfort follows twins, clones, and doppelgängers. Psychoanalytic works such as Sigmund Freud’s “The Uncanny” and Otto Rank’s “Der Doppelgänger” equate the double with the belief in the soul and a fear of death. Despite the negative associations of the double as an impostor or a ghoulish figure of tragedy or death, the double also seems to promise a companionship and wholeness that acts as a curative to the individual’s sense of loneliness.

By interacting with our double we are not only fulfilling a need for an understanding companionship—a pressure already made manifest in the desire for monogamous coupling and marriage—but also locating a kind of perfect self-reflection. Being a twin and having a twin sister has not, I think, given me any great insight into who I am as an individual. Of course, my twin and I are separate individuals: we do not reflect each other. In order to make use of such reflection, one would need to meet their exact double: yet the desire for companionship and understanding of oneself popularizes twins as special relationships, emphasizing closeness, friendship, and unified identities."

1 Schwartz, The Culture of the Copy: Striking Likenesses, Unreasonable Facsimiles (NY: Zone Books, 1996), 20.

- 'Introduction,' SelfSame by Maia Stark, 2014


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