Although social image may not yet be an institutional term, it touches on many of the current themes important to contemporary art such as social media, socially engaged performances and happenings, and internet-related art.

In recent months, MAMA has worked with a group of artists on the topic of social image. Following an open call in January 2014, MAMA found itself in the privileged position of finding six young artists who were connected by a strong affinity to the term. Over the past months, they have informed one another with relevant ideas about this concept.

Although social image may not yet be an institutional term, it touches on many of the current themes important to contemporary art such as social media, socially engaged performances and happenings, and internet-related art.


Online marketer Tony Obregon talks about ‘social image curating’ as a way of people connecting by using pictures to identify with their needs and desires. If so, any image that is posted online is a social image: it need only be posted on a personal account. Thus a social image can be a picture of someone’s new shoes or a reproduction of the Mona Lisa.

In Obregon’s vision, social images are passive images. They are used to construct someone’s online profile on social media. To make a social image, one need only to connect with different images, music, movies, etc. In his idea of ‘social image curating’, there is an overall similarity between images, whether (reproductions of) works of art or images of everyday consumer products. They are the building blocks of someone’s social appearance.

Artist Rafaël Rozendaal also has an interest in social images. He believes there is potential for social images that transform over time, ‘like a Wikipedia article’, by allowing users to change them. A changing picture or text that takes on a life of its own, as determined by third parties, is reminiscent of the behaviour and meaning of memes, both on and offline. A social image understood as a meme behaves like a carrier of cultural ideas, symbols, and practices that are passed from one person to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, and other reproducible phenomena.


The aim of the Social Image project is to enrich the knowledge and understanding of the social image concept, and measure the practice of a group of talented artists from different practices: visual artists, a theatre maker, a photographer, and a poet. The Social Image group functions as a ‘community of practice’ – a group of people with a common interest who, in practice, learn from each other through discussions and working together. Within the ‘community of practice’ the informal exchange and the connectedness with a common goal form an important condition for the participant’s development and results in new work.

In recent months, the artists, together with MAMA’s staff and external guests, discussed the subject of social image and related this concept to their own professional practice. Through this process of sharing information and experiences, they have learned from each other, and created additional opportunities to develop professionally. MAMA facilitated the exchange of information and studio visits with external partners – JODI (Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Paesmans), Bruno Listopad, Abner Preis, and Boris van Berkum – making new works possible and resulting in the exhibition Social Image. MAMA has adopted a similar role with previous solo and group exhibitions with young artists, but in the Social Image project it has been more formalized. The discussions and information exchange were also important for MAMA because it is a form of engagement with artists in which we believe and want to further develop.


The Social Image publication accompanies the exhibition and includes interviews by intern Milou Terpstra with all members of the group. The Dutch publication (edition of 750, designed by OONA) is available to visitors of the exhibition for free.

Curated by Gerben Willers with the contribution of Benjamin Li, Eva Olthof, Helen Flanagan, Marijn Alexander de Jong, Puck Verkade, and Gino van Weenen

About HOME

HOME is the leitmotiv by which we encourage conversation about conceptions regarding belonging, representation and identification. HOME is a fundament, the place you return to and anchorpoint for the journey onward. HOME (offline as well as online) is the start of feeling connect to others. Under the name HOME we also present exhibitions in the showroom of MAMA. In collaboration with young makers we express interpretations about HOME | IN REAL LIFE | NETWORKS.


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