Ideas of selfhood, from Descartes' theory of "I think therefore I am" to postmodern notions of the fragmented and de-centred self, have been crucial to the visual arts. Gen Doy explores this relationship, from Holbein's "Ambassadors" and the early modern period up to and beyond Marc Quinn's "Self" (Blood Head). Arguing that the importance of subjectivity for art goes far beyond self-portraits, she explores such topics as self-expression; the self, work and consumption; self-presentation; photography and the theatre of the self; the marginalized - beggars and asylum seekers - and "the real me". A wide range of artists, including Tracey Emin, Jeff Wall, Eugene Palmer and Karen Knorr, are discussed, as well as historical material from earlier periods.
Gen Doy is Professor of the History and Theory of Visual Culture, De Montfort University, Leicester and the author of Black Visual Culture: Modernity and Postmodernity and Drapery: Classicism and Barbarism in Visual Culture (both I.B.Tauris)