MEL KEISER // Becoming Mel

Becoming Mel

My work is an investigation inward toward the unknowability of self and the subjectivity of self-identity. Through repeated manipulations of my own image, I attempt to find the essential, invariable structure of what a ‘Mel’ is. To objectively perceive the self is generally understood as impossible: we are dichotomous beings in constant flux, aware of only a fraction of our cognitive activities. In making these works, I am both researcher and subject, analyst and analysand. As such, my nearness to the subject makes me simultaneously the best and worst person to pursue this research.

In occupying these paradoxical roles, I use my own image over and over again to physically create hundreds of version of myself, each series of work attempting a different type of self-quantification. Through this process of cascading selves, variations within the immanent ‘Mel’ and the physical ‘Mel’ are amplified and— through a sort of eidentic reduction— the idea of an essential self is raised: which variations alter the essence of the object, and which leave it unchanged?

The very act of trying to find this essential self is quixotic; to attempt to understand myself as a constant, integrated being inevitably results in further fragmentation and intorsion. Thus, the obsessive quality of the work reveals both faith and doubt in ever satisfactorily quantifying this essential self.

Becoming Mel is an ongoing series, documenting my daily transformation into ‘myself’— that is, the person I consider to be ‘Mel.’ Each day I take two photos. The first picture is taken immediately upon waking, before I have a mental concept of my identity or self-image. The second picture is taken after I begin to feel like ‘Mel,’ usually after my physical self begins to reflect what I believe ‘Mel’ looks like.

This process is repeated for thirty days. The project is restarted when I no longer consider the second photographs to represent who I believe ‘Mel’ is in the present.