Auto-icon

What drives mankind to pursue auto-iconography, sometimes to absurd lengths, such as the departed Michael Jackson who developed a plastic caricature of himself, a perfect and yet strangely alien face, framed by a few wispy, well-oiled curls?  Is it the pursuit of eternality in the eyes of the beholders that so motivates the auto-iconographer?

This is an apt question in the age of the Internet where anyone can fabricate an auto-icon, effectively substituting the perceived self for icons of the relic-littered past.  The iconoclast of the Twentieth Century has morphed into the auto-iconographer of the Twenty-First Century, and the auto-icon is often iterative for money and for glory.

When it comes to follies, nothing new has been created under the sun, so we can find plenty of historical precedents for comparable self-glorification—even ghastly auto-icons, such as the one Jeremy Bentham envisioned for his post-mortem glorification in the name of “science.”

The denser the self-absorption, the more grotesque the auto-icon is, at times otherworldly in its mendacity towards the common man, if not for simply saying: “Here I am, take a look.”  When I take a quick look at Jeremy Bentham’s auto-icon, forever indwelling the Internet with its rich and storied past, I see a severed and shrunken head http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/jeremy-bentham/about/bentham-head, but since the body could not be preserved over the long haul, I can only link to a waxen auto-icon, sans brains: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/jeremy-bentham.

Since Bentham is the father of Utilitarianism, his head is his important part, for it is a storehouse of remnant intellectual brilliance—those glass eyes can’t do it justice.  Father of voyeurism; arbiter of pleasure and pain; minister of indirect, diffuse control; shape-shifter of the moral code, Jeremy Bentham’s philosophies and practices interweave with ideas and practices of institutions today.  At a minimum, his auto-icon intimidates me because it reminds me that I never had a head for calculus, but I’m afraid Jeremy Bentham didn’t either.

Jeremy-Benthams-preserved-head

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