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THE PROJECT The core of “My Echo, My Shadow and Me” are regular autobiographical workshops led by artist Cristina Nuñez in 2021 and 2022, involving 45 young people from two groups: a class C.O.P. (students who have experienced academic failure) at the local secondary school Lycée Belval, and a group of heterogeneous youth from 20 to 30 years old. The latter group comprises participants with substance abuse or mental health issues and others who are migrants, mainly as refugees from countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan. During the workshops, participants were steered to work on their identity as individuals and community members, improve their perception of themselves and use technology with more awareness by applying Cristina Nuñez’s methodology: The Self-Portrait Experience (SPEX). Through SPEX, participants explore their emotions, needs and values through guided questions posed by the artist with a peer-to-peer approach. Then, through various media - such as photography, video, and journaling - they build an autobiographical and community archive. The project aims to broaden the perception of self and others; foster self-esteem and empowerment; stimulate the creative process for individual and social transformation; improve the relationships between peers, family and society; strengthen a sense of belonging and identity. The organisation of the project involved local associations (Impuls, Ryse and Passerell), while the outcome of the workshops is a corpus of participative and autobiographical artworks, a selection of which is presented at the University of Luxembourg and published in this website and a catalogue. -- extract from the catalogue text by Carolina Lio

THE METHOD Cristina Nuñez started working on photo self-portraiture in 1988 as a self-therapy tool to overcome personal problems derived from her teenage heroin addiction and low self-esteem. Since 2005, her auto-ethnographic artistic practice has then shifted into facilitating people’s creative process in prisons, mental health centres, museums, galleries, universities, schools and companies worldwide. With over 4000 collaborative self-portrait sessions held so far, SPEX is rapidly establishing itself as a device to stimulate the unconscious creative process, broaden self-perception, and foster the expression of uncomfortable feelings, often stigmatised by society and kept segregated from the “selfie culture”. Adolescents and young adults are the most affected by this trend and its consequences. Nuñez started using the SPEX methodology with young people in 2008, and she noticed a deep difference between how they perceived the self-portrait before and after the selfie-boom of 2012, in which the usage of the term “selfie” grew by 17,000%. The rise of the phenomenon led to a necessity of controlling our look in photos, with an increase of concern and worry on images representing ourselves. Today, Nuñez observes that most young people are reluctant to make or show their self-portraits or group photos in which they don’t have the same grade of control as in selfies made with mobile phones and retouched through flattering filters. This demonstrates that we are in a critical moment for self-image and that it has become increasingly important to re-learn to look at oneself more authentically. Conversely to the norms of social media self-representation, SPEX encourages the use of digital technology for introspective analysis and deep identification with the other, reverting the feeling of isolation often hidden behind the massive use of social media. A particular innovative point of SPEX and “My Echo, My Shadow and Me” is the social activism value of the process, the assertion of the right to express any emotion and need even when still not socially accepted. -- extract from the catalogue text by Carolina Lio

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