Bakhtin; Self Through Another

“I am conscious of myself and become myself only while revealing myself for another, through another, and with the help of another…”

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In my own journey of becoming a self aware subject, I look into the works of 20th century Russian literary theorist, Mikhail Bakhtin. Bakhtin’s theory on self realization through the use of a another is key to giving meaning to ourselves and our art. As I produce my duality self identifying images, I have gotten to know myself better. Through playing multiple roles of myself, I can explore the meaning of this quote. I step into two pairs of shoes, one my extroverted perceived self and the other, my private centered self. I tend to let them both have time to exercise their beliefs and projections. For my perceived self, it’s my notion of how I want people to see me. It’s my style and my likes that manifest into this person. It’s my confidence and my self esteem that are allowed to act out here, in this form. I take pleasures in the everyday and relate to pop culture and the general public. I enjoy the attention I receive and it gives my ego a immediate gratification.

Then there is my centered self. My private life, my introverted side. This is the real Melody, no show, no ego. It’s who I am and whom I’ve always been. This part of me doesn’t really change so much as the perceived self, which is always in flux… reacting to the world around. This introverted self is where I come to feel a sense of center. It’s when I relax and reflect on my life. In my room, all alone in privacy. This side of me does not react to social media, does not act aggressively, but it rests. It absorbs the day’s experiences and slowly makes needed changes in thought and in mindful ways.
By allowing myself to have a dual relationship with myself, I am learning and revealing myself to myself. I am growing spiritually as well as physically. I shoot these self portraits because I feel the urge to express both sides of my personality with my tools of photography. I use these dual images to explore my insecurities and to help me better understand who I am and what direction to move in. This illustration of my innermost ideals make me vulnerable but without them I would not have the clarity that I do now.
Because of my dual nature and the ability to recognize them, I can also find myself in others. I see my past in people, my own struggles and breakthroughs. I listen to people speak of their own life adversities and I can relate because I know too well the trials of life. I can speak up or I can choose to sit quietly and learn more. I learn more about the person as well as myself as I hear their emotions in their voices. I hear passion and pain, I relate. I recall things I may have suppressed. I know it’s all coming to me in good time. I learn more about myself with each conversation. Bakhtin believed that we could not come into consciousness without the unavoidable social element of dialog. To participate with another we find meaning in our own existence.
I am learning not to judge people, but to let them reveal so that I may share in my own revelations in order for us both to grow. I am slowly becoming more conscious of myself, everyday. I have come out of this shell and off this island to allow people back into my life.
I realize that the more I communicate or listen, the more I recognize and embrace my own flaws and my progress.

     “I cannot manage without another, I cannot become myself without another; I must find myself in another by finding another in myself (in mutual reflection and mutual acceptance)…”

I comprehend the notion of not being able to live without another, even if that other is my other. Without another, I have no one to reflect upon. I would always be self absorbed not looking out. In the beginning of my duality self portraits, I was always looking in for answers. As the project developed I steadily started to look outward. First at artists I would read about, Frida Kahlo was a major influence in understanding the relativity between me and the people out there in the world. I started to see myself in her.

     “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.”
                                           ~Frida Kahlo

I chose to shoot self portraits because I also knew no one better. I had been alone for so many years in a deep depression. I felt that if I didn’t find a way to express my duality, I may go mad. I use photography as a tool to illustrate what I cannot say and to identify myself … my inner thoughts and self expression. In my art I convey this notion of simultaneously existing with my alter ego or other. It is this mirror that I look into my own eyes as if I am looking into another’s.

I became aware of many things with my duality but not really until I began to see the people around me as teachers of life. Once I moved out of my tiny studio and into a house with a close friend, I felt I came full circle. We have a syntax and a language that not only comforts me with familiarity, it stimulates my intellectual and my memories. As I came out of my depression,  I threw away all ideals of myself and people during this time. I have resurfaced as a new person, an coexisting as the same person I was before. I have been getting to know myself again these past few months through the help of friends and reconnecting with people. I feel like I have grown immensely since this Summer, since I immersed myself back into society. I am allowing myself to see life through others eyes. Without all of these people, I would not have a sense of who I am. Without them, I would still be a scared girl, vulnerable and afraid to come out of the dark.







Work Cited:
Task of the Teaching Life: Self Through Bakhtin Dialog and Ideological Engagement, Douglas McKnight
Bodies of Meaning: Studies on Language, Labor and Liberation. David McNally pp 123- 129