The Artist is Absent proposes a reflection on the exploration of women self-representation online. The artwork is made of about 2000 female selfies collected on the “Moments” of hundreds of users of the Chinese social media Wechat, the most used mobile messaging service in the world. Presenting a large panel of women selfies of any age, from teenager to septuagenarian, The Artist is Absent questions the development of the roles of women in society and the evolution of their social behavior from generation to generation. It also shows how women perceive themselves and how they want others to see them. Sometimes act of seduction, sometimes playful, rebel or exhibitionist, these self-portraits are all mirrors of nowadays women in society.
Witnessing the here and now of a fast-changing society, this artwork implicitly also emphasizes the drastic shift that has been achieved in China in a few decades, from the cult of personality of one to the cult of oneself. Going beyond the national boundaries, it also addresses questions on the impact of economic growth and new technologies on social behavior and privacy and on the role of women in society and in the art system.
The title The Artist is Absent is a reference to Marina Abramovitch performance The Artist is Present where the visitor is invited to sit face to face with the artist and explore his interiority, while the gesture of “selfies” is the narcissist and superficial performance of an ephemeral moment.