I think therefore I am



Approximately 400 years ago, the French philosopher René Descartes provided one answer to the profound question, “What is the essence of being human?” with the famous proposition, “I think, therefore I am.” This seminal idea served as the cornerstone for discovering one’s own existence and consciousness, broadening the perspective through which we perceive the world.

Roughly 300 years later, an artwork paying homage to Descartes’ words came into being: I shop therefore I am, presented by American artist Barbara Kruger in 1987. Embedded within its message was a warning that “the masses are defined not by what they think, but by what they own.” The backdrop of the 1980s, from which this piece emerged, was a time when the social fabric was transforming due to the civil rights and environmental movements that had gained momentum since the 1960s. Simultaneously, there was an evolution in industry, technology, and economy, propelling the era towards mass production and consumption.

Fast forward to 2021, marked by transformations in information technology and industrial structures, intensifying environmental challenges, the pursuit of diversity and inclusivity in production and sales, and the vulnerabilities in supply chains laid bare by the pandemic. We find ourselves living in an era that demands global rule changes, akin to (or even surpassing) the conditions of 1980s America. It seems crucial, especially now, when signs of the “post-COVID” era are emerging, to re-examine the culture and values born from “consumption.” It strongly feels like the need of the hour to rethink these cultures and values, which serve as the axis around which this age revolves.

The act of “buying” can invite new values into our own beings and is an intention to cast a vote for a better society. Recently, I have strongly felt that by listening closely to events worldwide and bridging the acts of “shop” and “think,” we can create an opportunity to imagine and contemplate the values we should embrace within ourselves, the kind of future we aspire to, and the relationships that lie dormant within.

I think, therefore I am.” Because through thinking, we are capable of existing.

June 2021, Scanning