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Finally, Berger’s fourth episode embraces the contemporary concept of advertising, twisting what was then represented through oil painting into digital enhanced versions. In the same vein, psychologist Carl Rogers’ theories on the ideal self proves to be an accurate understanding of the importance of advertising in our society and can interestingly be put in relation to Berger’s.
Article CELIA DEHOUCHE
Photography RICHMOND LAM
Stylist JESSY COLUCCI
Creative direction ESTELLE GERVAIS, MILAN TANEDJIKOV
Hair and make-up artists ALPER SISTERS (Teamm)
Set assistants LAURA MALISAN, GUILLAUME GAUTHIER, TATIANA MOIS
Models ALEX, ANTONINA, BENAIAH, MIKAEL, WOLFIE
How many times have you answered: “I don’t know…it’s just the way I am’’ to a question? This answer refers to a state of being assumed to be homogeneous and fluid for most of us. We live our daily lives surrounded by, and interacting with, other human beings. During these moments of interaction, we implicitly and explicitly define ourselves by directly and indirectly pointing out who we are, revealing our self. The concept of the Self has been extensively documented in various literature. Still, it is difficult to put a hand on its holistic and ontological meaning. Each school of thought focuses on one particular dimension of its component. In order to draw the complexity of the self-concept, let’s put into dialogue Carl Rogers’ (Actualizing Tendency, 1961) and John Berger’s (Ways of Seeing, 1972) definitions of Self. Both authors had measurable and various influences, Rogers in most “psy” fields, and Berger in art criticism. However, it is hard to tell which one has best defined the self-concept as their approaches reflect different methodologies and ways of thinking. Somehow, they complement each other.
ANTONINA: (Left) Coat COMME DES GARÇONS. (Right) Jacket TEIA LINDFORS, Tunic (worn as scarf) ANNMARIE CLARKE.
ALEX: (Left) Dress ECKHAUS LATTA. (Right) Suit MATT SHELEST, Choker and Tops FECAL MATTER, Boots MODEL’S OWN.
In the fourth episode of Berger’s Ways of Seeing, we are invited to think about the self through the imaginary process generated by publicity in a capitalist society in which culture is based on consumption. This imaginary process reflects what Berger calls an ‘’alternative way of life’’, which is an imaginary future. What is asked from the modern consumerist individual is to constantly change himself through possession, so he can become his true self, a self built by a normative order. Therefore, Berger’s analysis suggests that subjectification occurs slowly on an unconscious level. Unfolds a tedious process, that we neither always have control over nor that we barely fully understand. If one follows his reasoning and extends it to a certain level of abstraction, it is possible to relate it to a constructivist point of view, where the self is seen as something in constant creation by several institutions holding common normative discourses. The self is then socially constructed, and even if the tendency is to make every individual believe in its uniqueness, society’s influence is global.
MIKAEL: (Left) Pants MODEL’S OWN. (Right) Head piece DELIZNE VIGNEAU, Coat XINI, Top CHRISMAG LB, Dress ANDREA ESCVDERO, Boots STYLIST’S OWN.
Rogers’ theory of self leads us to another dimension. The latter disagreed with Freudian theory of unconsciousness, which brought him to develop of the ‘actualizing tendency’ theory. It is based on congruence, a coherent alignment between what we feel, think and do. Rogers’ definition of self is decomposed into a linear system with two principal parts: the real-self (the way we see and define ourselves, including self-image), the ideal-self (represents our ambitions and goals, the self we want to be at various moments in life). According to him, self-actualization occurs when an individual’s ideal-self is congruent with the real-self. For one to self-actualize, will and ambition are the driven forces that testify to the ability for rational choice.
That being said, we can advance that Berger’s true self is Rogers’ ideal-self with some differences or course. For Berger, the true self is nonexistent because, being built by capitalism discourse, it is always changing, fluent, alienated. Nonexistent because it is defined by language, which is the ability to use complexes systems (semiotics and semantics) of communication. It allows to travel space and time when signs and symbols are combined with meaning. The idea of “Glamour” in Ways of Seeing illustrates it well. This idea is associated to certain poses and gestures, a style, attitude and look that has changed through time. In fact, being glamourous today hasn’t the same meaning as it did in the 70’s. Berger stated that glamour has traveled our imaginary world through images and publicity, even if in “reality”, its status is never concrete and conquered. It is through language that one constructs and gives sense to a reality (Berger and Luckmann,1966). Therefore, it is possible to access multiple worlds and realities, as well as different selves in the same society. Roger’s ideal-self, on the contrary, is crossed by a reverse movement: from the inside to the outside. It is the individual who decides on the self he wants to be, and it is up to him to do what is necessary to reach it’s goals. In sum, while Berger depicts the social structures and processes that influence the individual-self, Rogers uncovers, for his part, the mental structure or our self-psyche.
BENAIAH: (Left) All MODEL’S OWN. (Right) Suit JEANNIE DERY-BELANGER, Turtleneck XINI, Dress LE THUY ANH, Boots and Prop STYLIST’S OWN.
Most of human productions are today, in an individualized society, reflections of the self. This applies to Art and Fashion. If it used to reflect a certain social status (pre-capitalist societies), it is today, in a modern era, a way to express people’s subjectivity and distinguish each self from another, as well as a space of emancipation (i.e. androgenization of models since the 80’). Fashion has been blurring the tracks of social and sexual divisions, in parallel to the fragmentation of the self that has been ongoing since the spread of internet and technologies. Thus, getting dressed every morning, is time traveling through imagination: we dress the way we see ourselves (now) and the way we’d like to be seen (later) as a mark of our identity.
WOLFIE: (Right) Dress SELLY NIANG, Boots ALEX’S OWN.