Zainab Burhan began in isolation

Zainab works with the idea of looking. All memories begin with how vividly you experience that moment; senses exist to make sense of the world, not record it as is. Sociologist Charles Horton Cooley’s concept of ‘looking glass self’ states that individuals develop their concept of self by observing how they are perceived by others. When we apply digital media to this process as Zainab’s practice of self-curating began in the pandemic, we have more questions than answers about the nature of identity, keeping in mind that society is a complementary aspect to the concept of self.

It becomes increasingly complex when feedback, responses, and signals from complete strangers on digital platforms are thrown into the mix. How often does an individual today consistently take their personal value system into account when changing themselves? Do ever-increasing connections make the self more profound? Erving Goffman in his ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’ uses the imagery of theatre to liken people to actors on a stage. George Herberrt Mead argues that the social self is an ongoing interaction between the Me (seeing others as seeing oneself) and the I (personal reaction to a situation).

Whether this is Zainab seeing others as she sees herself or these are her personal reactions to interactions, the argument stands: as the worlds in which we meet people are growing, identity is becoming more malleable, because it can be updated.

Image: Somnolent, Zainab Burhan, oils on canvas, all copyrights retained by the artist 2023.