This classic side angle portrait was an illustration found on the September 20, 2010 issue of the New Yorker in a text titled, “The Face of Facebook”, in which the protagonist of the story was the founder of the global networking website Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.
The Face of Facebook could be interpreted as via the Face of Facebook. There are two layers of meanings: one is about borrowing the image of Mark Zuckerberg, the public figure, as a way of saying something; the other is about the images that were created through invitations extended to other artists and friends. Individual expectations and personal experiences constitute the potency of the work, and also bring into the potency of a social question.
To re-enact this side portrait of Zuckerberg was Zhu Jia’s initial inspiration. More interestingly, the artist has invited over 50 friends from different professions to participate. Among them are acclaimed contemporary Chinese artists and personages from different professions such as, Zhang Xiaogang, Wang Guangyi, Zhang Peili, Yue Minjun, Liu Xiaodong, Liu Wei, Yan Peiming, Liu Ye, Yang Fudong, Zhan Wang, Yang Shaobin, Sun Xun etc. They will contribute a portrait in their own artistic style, or in completely novel representations. Without any signatures on these artworks, it will be difficult to identify the creator of the artwork. Much like the status updates and photo albums posted by Facebook users, the real and the illusory are often intertwined. Zhu Jia’s choice of Zuckerberg’s portrait was a coincidence, or largely affected by the aesthetics of the photograph itself, or perhaps even the ubiquitous social network of Facebook? Its inherent ambivalence and its tumultuous fate in China have been dramatic. By appropriating the irony of “The Face of Facebook”, Zhu weaved a complex network of visual art, by which to initiate an unspeakably ambiguity in a struggle of power.
Zhu Jia is conceptually probing unique visual experiences beyond regular ones. This project is a seemingly replacement of his Facebook account in China (Facebook is banned in mainland China), yet it goes more than that. As Zhu has once commented, “This is not a question of artistic creation per se, but it delves into the question of power, politics, art rules, as well as art markets.
About Zhu Jia 朱加
A seminal figure in contemporary Chinese video art, Zhu Jia trained in oil painting but has worked exclusively in photography and video since the late 1980s. His work, stylistically minimalist but not without a visual punch, interrogates aspects of the quotidian during a time of profound economic, social, and political transformation, touching upon socially taboo topics and the mundane. In works like Forever (1994) and Continuous Landscape (1999-2000), Zhu takes his camera on a dizzying course through Chinese cities, offering new means of making sense of a rapidly changing urban environment. Recent Chinese history, including the legacy of the Cultural Revolution and the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, and the state’s uncomfortable relationship with contemporary art, also bear heavily on Zhu’s work.
Chinese, b. 1963, Beijing, China, based in Beijing, China