The Emo Girl’s Oval Mirror and the Elusive Gravity of the Double
There is only one way out of the mass media’s sealed aquarium – reflection. Just as Perseus defeated Medusa by deflecting her lethal gaze back to her with the mirror-like surface of his shield, so too does the emo kid reflect/deflect her own image, hopelessly captured by the mass media, with the oval shield of Maria Pogorzhelskaya’s paintings. The direct gaze is poisonous: it instantly becomes advertising, inducing one to buy a teddy bear to go with one’s emotions, to pack hopelessness in a postman’s bag, to mill about the dead ends of depression in Converse sneakers.
The emo kid’s post-mediality lies in her tribal affiliation to Internet culture. The emo kid inhabits the social networks, the sites where photographs are posted and downloaded, especially the photographs of those who allow themselves to say, “This is me.”
This is me. These are my friends, my other selves. This is what I love. This is what I am.
I Am Emo is a series of paintings by Maria Pogorzhelskaya in which she doubles this reflected gaze directed at herself. Her paintings are post-mediatic: they literally follow in the wake of photography. Moreover, this happens in such a way that the photographs are both fundamentally important and non-apparent. The viewer should know that she is looking at the painted reproduction of a photograph. But the viewer might also not know this. In the final analysis, something else matters – time.
In the manner of photography, Pogorzhelskaya’s paintings aim to capture the moment. By appealing to photography, she preserves in her work the fortuitous and unrepeatable temporal aspect, prolonging it to the eternity of the “long second” and imparting a lightness to each moment of being. Pogorzhelskaya’s post-mediatic paintings in the I Am Emo cycle represent post-mediatic images. Here we find enclosed the figure of doubling, which aims to capture the as it were elusive, ephemeral emo girls.
These emo selves are embedded in the pictorial density of the canvas-as-mirror. They are self-contained, enclosed in oval portraits whose center of gravity has been shifted. Their faces are seen as if from outer space and as it were pressed against the painting’s porthole, and that is why they are disproportionately large vis-à-vis their bodies. In this acute, top-down perspective, so unlike the “marketable” mass-media image, we witness a breaking away from the earth, a relinquishing of earthly gravitation, and the phantasm of dizzying freedom.
The mirror motif emphasizes the narcissism of images. Emo girls endlessly pose for photographs so as to catch sight of themselves in the camera’s reflection or in the reflection of a camera pointed at a mirror. Emo girls as it were aspire to capture the image of the emo girl. It is thus impossible to catch their gaze, which is always already reflected and directed inwards. Contemporary culture’s narcissism is manifested in this extreme introversion. Only in the adult world do advertising and mass media images serve as a mirror, images with which happy consumers, divested of physical age, identify themselves in this imaginary paradise. Emo kids do not project media surrogates for eternal youth and happiness onto themselves. They really are young and desperately seeking themselves. Me me me. I am emo. Secret me. Me). Simply me. +Me+. You will love me. Me(:. Just me. This is how the emo girls sign their own photographic reflections. Despite their emotional vulnerability, they have an effective weapon against a world prepared to swallow them up – the imperviousness of their reality, a reality exclusively focused on its own self and self-enclosed.
Olesya Turkina and Viktor Mazin
EMO. View of exhibition in Aidan Gallery
Cover of the catalog for the exhibition