This classic side angle portrait was an illustration Zhu Jia found on the September 20, 2010 issue of the New Yorker in a text titled, “The Face of Facebook”, about 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. The artist has invited over 50 friends from different professions to contribute. Among them are acclaimed contemporary Chinese artists and personages from different professions. They contributed 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 fake 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 Jia 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.