Singapore Contemporary Young Artists

Playing With & For The Community

urban body speaks/ Being at the centre of the universe


by
Jennifer Lee
Cozy nook on my bed

Ever heard of the term “having the world revolve around you”? Self-centredness is a trait as old as time, but in this generation we’re in, it no longer lurks bashfully under the surface. We’re proudly rolling in narcissism. And many of us might have spun out of control.

Take a look around. Case in point: the rampant and reckless abuse of social media. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. These tools feed and breed narcissism. Not to say that they are the cause. But social media makes it so easy for people to glorify their own thoughts and stake the importance of their existence. In other words, I see flashing neon lights screaming “Enabler Alert!”.

Don’t get me wrong. It is true that these are wonderful tools to keep friends and loved ones updated—share little bits of yourself with the world. Believe me, that’s all fine and dandy until an update pops up in your news feed announcing a “status”: “Having diarrhoea now”, followed by “Been sh*tting the whole day”. Or a stray comment on an equally random post announcing, “I like tampons, not sanitary pads.” As the cool kids will say, “TMI, dude.” (For those not too well-educated in the art of internet lingo, that means too much information. This is by no means trying to project shame on anyone who needed the translation though. That would be narcissistic, won’t it?)

Sometimes, kind followers in the Twitterverse are treated to wonderful gems such as “I’m eating a burger. Then taking a nap.” Over at Instagram, a camera-trigger-happy individual immortalises what looks like a plate of three-dollar chicken rice and a can of chrysanthemum tea in a sepia snapshot. And for his or her next post, a picture of a McSpicy value meal accompanied with a caption that says, “What I had for dinner today.” While chronicling your food journey could be potentially interesting, is it really necessary to have your friends know what you’re eating for every single meal?

It makes one wonder what goes on in a mind—crafting, capturing those well-versed, thought-provoking posts. Maybe they felt compelled to share. Maybe they were just being open. Or maybe, they thought so highly of themselves that they believe every tiny detail of their lives excites people. But each to his own.

The most puzzling is this: social media has big potential. It’s an amazing marketing tool. It’s a convenient channel to share interesting news, and a great way to close the gap between people. But why are so many of us undermining it—taking the most mundane parts of our lives, attempting to drizzle jazz over it—and voilà—make it a big whoop. Maybe self-centredness is so deeply rooted in our nature that we take every opportunity to put it on display.

Could it be our up-bringing that bred this shameless self-love? Another case in point: “talent” shows on air. Talent is mentioned in quotation marks because these programmes feature more contestants short on talent—but great for entertainment value. There would always be the one whose confidence is sky high, often accompanied by zealous parents who speak nothing but sing praises of their offspring on camera. In the moment of truth, the contestant stands in front of the judges, and croaks like a frog. A cascade of tears follows, accusations of bad judgements and almost always, this phrase is uttered, “I did great. I know I’m good.”

Is this a product of pampering with loving affirmations from parents who want their children to feel good about themselves? Maybe years  of blind support had led them down the path of misplaced confidence.

Now, that’s the thing about confidence: it’s a thin line. Go over and you simply are an over-confident prick who thinks you can do no wrong. Fall under and you could be plagued with a lifetime of low self-esteem.

We all will know someone at some point of our lives who takes confidence to that first  extreme. The know-it-all. Those who brag as a sport and forage for flattery. Don’t you love to hate them? But the truth is this: today’s society favours the self-confident. Not the overtly distasteful sort who push both their claims and themselves overboard. But definitely those who are unafraid to toot their own horn when the need arises.

It’s them that we gravitate to. The confident individual who knows exactly what he or she wants and how to get it. And this is the pearl of advice most of them dispense, “You have to sell yourself to get ahead. You have to show off your capabilities.” More than ever, in a working environment where physical and paper credences become more level, this advice actually seems coherent. From home to schools, and definitely onwards and online, we are conditioned to believe that confidence is the key to success (if not the ultimate key, certainly at the top notches of the totem pole). In an ardent chase for the illusive “confidence factor”, have we fallen off the tracks and into the gorge of self-centredness?

In Greek mythology, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. He was consumed with his glory and spent endless hours gazing at himself.  Eventually, he drowned in the sorrow of unrequited love. For some like Narcissus, narcissism may suck you into the depths of doom, but who’s to say that a splash of it couldn’t help some stay afloat or even swim happily in self-loving contentment.

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#3 in a series of written perspectives on how the urban and the body manifest in the other, in a running accompaniment to the visual art exhibition called, well, urban body. Nine artists will present visual provocations—in a bid to expose and make tangible the cityscapes of our formed selves.

A published compilation of both art and essay will be available at the exhibition.

urban body opens at 6:30pm on 2 august 2012 at the Orange Thimble, in Tiong Bahru, Singapore’s first housing estate. For details and updates, check out the event page on facebook.

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Copyright © 2012 Author. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the site in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author’s name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form.

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This entry was posted on July 16, 2012 by in Others.

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