Of all the questions posed by the digital age, the weird, wonderful and otherwise convoluted relationship we have to our bodies may be one of the least explored. A new book encompassing photography, fashion and other artistic mediums, “Doppelganger: Images of the Human Being” takes a look at the visual depictions—from torsos woven from strips of flesh to head-to-toe tribal suits freely referencing multiple cultures—of the phenomenon.
On the premise that the Internet, as the dominant medium for social interactions, has led to physical anonymity, the collection of startling and provocative images is curated on the concept of a “media identity.” This doppelganger of the actual human body is based however loosely or disproportionately on self-perceptions as well as those shaped by the bigger social context. Chapters organized by creative approaches like Dissolve, Deform, and Escape delve into how more than 80 conceptual artists envision these human simulacra.
“Exploring what deeply concerns people emotionally and representing it pictorially is one of the most interesting things happening in art and visual culture today,” explains editor Robert Klanten in the book’s preface. From tangible, more conventional layers like costumes and masks to photo-technical renderings and artistic manipulations, this sizable coffee-table tome reveals the innumerable permutations of human form that have emerged in this very short span of time. Perhaps the result of its translation from German, Doppelganger’s preface can seem a little abstruse at times, which hardly seems to matter given that the rest of the book’s evocative and unsettling images speak for themselves.
As disparate and unusual as these various depictions are, at the heart of the visual story is the idea of authenticity; though artificial, these deliberately-executed layers sometimes reveal more about their creators and wearers than their actual faces and bodies.