This series of self-portraits serves both as counterpoint and compliment as to how the self is represented in our times—in the digital age, in the age of social media. One could not deny as well of the ever-increasing pervasiveness of the web alongside constantly shifting trends of the global in societies across the globe. Along with the digital age, comes also the persistence of the construct of diasporic identities due to the ongoing exchanges left and right and constantly becoming borderless and deterritorialized.
In the currents of a time wherein almost everyone looks the same: familiar but strange, same but different—that’s perhaps the best way to describe individuals these days. Everyone seemingly looks the same on the outset yet through a hypnotic repetition of actualities, one could perhaps decipher differences in the long run or upon closer inspection. At one hand it becomes a dissonant rhetoric while on the other end, a simple persuasive dialogue that puts everything into place.
What also is interesting is that, the process of this self-portraits project situates itself in a constantly evolving dialogue that does not intend to conclude itself, as the self as against the web is a process in itself under construction.
In this currently ongoing series of “performative” self-portraits called “You as Me,” I use other people stand in for me to render these so-called “self-portraits” of his. With that process alone, it already situates spectators in a polemic about the actualization of the self that finds itself in an inevitable paradox while on the side of language, starting a conversation about “you being me” finds itself persistently interchangeable with “me being you.” The “you” overlaps with his proposed construct of the “me” and vise versa lending us a collaborative-self portrait.
It seems like deceptively simple project on the outset. Yet the more you think about it, the more you peel layers off it, the more this conversation becomes increasingly complex. At one hand, it may seem quite simply a conversation starter wherein “I” ask you to be “me” and the conversation would open up to a ton of other possibilities. The “you” transcends into “me” but in the bigger picture it is presents this continuous creation of the “we” rendering itself in this perpetual state of discourse and collaboration. It finds itself as some kind of elliptical discourse that never ceases and continues to tirelessly situate new directions and systems and even its own particular set of politics. It is much like the connectivity of individuals in the digital age or how the perception and construction of the self is being stimulated by a persistent and ever-fleeting exchange of information.
At present this series already consists of 200 portraits in the catalogue. It continues to grow, as it is an ongoing project that yearns to cover greater diversity by way of featuring more and more individuals to stand in for me from different social, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. I also transition through the gaps and spaces of my communication with these subjects performing and standing in for me. It also finds itself in this societal context of our times, one that particularly embraces the digital age and the platforms of how we socialize. The particular process of You as Me leads to many gaps and inconsistencies that lends it its own particular strength which very much coincides with how contemporary visual culture is in the context of the present—chaotic, volatile, inconsistent.
Gian Cruz is an up and coming artist whose artistic practice is heavily rooted in photography. His major preoccupation is about tracing identities (most often self-referential) in the digital age with the aid of photography and his work does the inevitable crossing over to the realm of performance initiating his work to a more complex spectrum. As his works talk about discourses and processes in relation to his art making, the finished work he creates are often just initiators towards a bigger picture, a bigger discourse.
Gian Cruz has been merited for the Pride Photo Award in 2016 and was also a finalist Personal Light | The Photophore Contemporary Photo Award. He has also been shortlisted for the Ateneo Art Awards: Purita Kalaw-Ledesma Prize for Art Criticism in 2014, one of the most prestigious art awards in the Philippines. His works have been extensively shown across Europe, Asia, and the US.