There was a time when we were part of nature, but since we began to see ourselves as individuals, we have become compelled to be the creative creator of ourselves. People who are not even born yet can already be improved or adapted at the microscopic level by testing and manipulating genes or by applying stem cell and nanotechnology. And from an ever younger age, we have given ourselves the immensely complex task of working on ourselves to obtain the desired result. This is both a philosophical and an artistic mission, as it concerns both the message and the packaging.
Of course politicians and other stars have always been busy creating themselves, but via laptops and smartphones we can all now build our own self-image and present it to the world. Is it fake? No, being able to create our self-image can just as easily be seen as a useful defence mechanism, a response to the wave of images coming at us, and a way to hold our own in a society that is characterized by increased mobility and leisure time and by an constantly growing number of choices.
Being able to regard mankind as a work of art is not some form of disenchantment. Rather, this makeability underlines the mystic aspect of life, its intangibility. With self-design we are facing a future in which making a difference becomes the creative challenge. The world will be more colourful, less conventional, more exciting and more imaginative when everyone becomes a designer.
Designing yourself is a personal challenge, but most of all a responsible task. How you position, profile, and manifest yourself in society not only determines your own happiness and well-being, but also that of your environment.
Mieke Gerritzen is a designer and producer. Until 2017 she was the director of Museum of the Image (MOTI) in Breda, the Netherlands. She then founded the Image Society, which focusses on image culture, design and digital culture.
Words by Mieke Gerritzen
Help Your Self! The Rise of Self-Design, p.58
Help Your Self! The Rise of Self-Design, p.57
Help Your Self! The Rise of Self-Design, p.2
The following texts are extracts from, Help Your Self! The Rise of Self-Design, p.52, Identity, What Are You?, p.237, Truth, Do You Really Exist?, Valiz, 2020, valiz.nl