Die selfportret beleef tans 'n oplewing aanlyn en word deur sommiges selfs as die volkskuns van die digitale era bestempel. Boonop maak die algemene toegang tot web- en selfoonkameras dit moontlik vir iedereen om hulle eie selfportret (of dan profile pic) aanlyn te kan skep en in stand te kan hou. Hierdie tendens kan beskryf word as 'n demokratisering van selfportrette, 'n genre wat eens slegs vir die aristokrasie en kunstenaars beskore was. Indien die kontemporêre aanlyn selfuitbeeldings met die tradisionele selfportret-genre vergelyk word, kan daar aangedui word dat daar bepaalde verskille is. In hierdie ontleding sal die verskille tussen die tradisionele selfportret soos onder andere vergestalt in die Duitse Renaissance-kunstenaar Albrecht Dürer se werk, in gesprek gebring word met kontemporêre selfuitbeeldings aanlyn, maar in die besonder op sosialemedia-netwerke soos Facebook. In die vergelyking sal daar voorgestel word dat die vroeë manifestasies van die selfportretkuns sekere ooreenkomste toon met wat Paul Virilio identifiseer as 'n "estetika van verskyning" in kontras met die wyse waarop die self in sosiale media vergestalt in wat bestempel kan word as 'n "estetika van verdwyning". Kortweg verwys estetika van verdwyning na die wyse waarop beelde intyds op skerms afwisselend verskyn en verdwyn ten einde die self in 'n "alom-tele-teenwoordigheid", of dan alomteleteenwoordigheid, te situeer.
The genre of the self-portrait is currently experiencing a revival online, and particularly on social media platforms such as Facebook. This growing popularity of the self-portrait online has caused some authors to refer to the online self-portrait as the folk art of the digital age. The popularity of self-portraiture is made possible in part through ubiquitous tools such as web and cell phone cameras. Through these handy tools everyone with access to the internet can create a self-portrait online and also manage and maintain their own presence effortlessly and constantly online. The fact that the creation of self-portraiture has become so readily accessible to many also indicates that the genre has been democratised. Whereas traditionally the genre of the self-portrait has been reserved mostly for aristocracy and artists, now everyone can take part in their own self-expression. The main question explored in this article is, what happens to the genre of the self-portrait in an era of social media networks and how does it compare with traditional self-portraiture? In order to explore this question the analysis turns to the so-called birth moment of the self-portrait in the Western tradition, namely to the time of German artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and particularly to his potent self-portrait of 1500. The reason for this selection is that this early manifestation of the self-portrait overlaps with what philosopher and urbanist Paul Virilio identifies as an "aesthetic of appearance" - in other words, a representation that endures in time and space. Virilio associates the aesthetic of appearance with representation, for it does not assume full presence of the artists, but rather a presence through absence, thus a re-presentation of the artist that endures over time and space. This differs considerably from the depiction of the self on social media networks and specifically Facebook. It is argued that the contemporary democratisation of the self-portrait can be meaningfully interpreted by making use of Virilio's idea of an "aesthetic of disappearance". In brief, aesthetic of disappearance refers to the ways in which contemporary images appear on screens in real time creating a tele-presence (a presence over physical and geographical distance) that can be updated continuously. According to Virilio the online identity created and updated in real time suggests an instantaneous presence that is available everywhere at all times. Consequently the aesthetic of disappearance is associated with immediate presence that tries to eliminate all forms of mediation or re-presentation. By utilising this hermeneutical framework, namely the differences between an aesthetic of appearance and disappearance, the difference between representation and presentation is illuminated in the discussion by applying it to the traditional self-portrait and contemporary online self-expression. This framework is used merely as an indicator, for in no way can it be assumed that all examples of self-portraiture and online self-expressions fit neatly into this opposition. In fact, it is far more promising to keep the analyses open and to use Virilio’s distinction as a useful guide.
The article therefore suggests that the traditional self-portrait as depicted by the modern artist represents a presence through its own absence, which can be associated with an aesthetic of appearance. The self-portraits of Dürer, Rembrandt, Beckmann, Bacon and Warhol are briefly discussed to show this trajectory from an aesthetic of appearance to disappearance. The ways in which digital photography further undermines the traditional self-portrait is also briefly discussed through the work of Morimura and Schechner. The trajectory followed can also be associated with the movement from modernism towards a consumerist postmodernism. The genre of the self-portrait is then explored in its contemporary guises made possible through new technologies and social media. These new developments allow for new ways of presenting the self by means of a telepresence that has overcome time and space. The fact that online the self can be constantly edited, updated and exhibited makes it more analogous to an ongoing project or process than a final product or positioning of the self. In particular the portrayal of the self on Facebook through profile pictures is explored with reference to misleading and over-flattering depictions. The presentation of the self online also allows for the suspension of the separation between the private and the public spheres, because the intimate private life can now be broadcast constantly to an ever-present public audience. In short: whereas the traditional self-portrait appears, positions and represents in time and space, the online self-expression presents in real time, immediately and instantaneously, and inevitably disappears.