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#29 Social Media

Speaking: Willem Popelier


Willem Popelier in his exhibition 'Ephemeral Photographs'. photo Hetty de Groot

‘Social Abstinence’, a new concept that suddenly pops up as the corona virus spreads around the world. “If people have to stay at home, they will still contact each other through social media,” Willem Popelier uttered during a lecture on Wednesday evening March 11 for a small group of people in Pennings Foundation. Nobody could have foreseen that developments would go so fast. Two days later, Pennings Foundation, like many other cultural institutions, is forced to close the building to visitors. This means that the exhibition of Willem Popelier, Ephemeral Photographs has been put on hold.


Ephemeral Photographs is a remarkable project about aesthetic images, images of nature, made quickly on the way, just like everyone takes a photo with their mobile phone. Every day only one aesthetic photo is on show, both in the exhibition space and on social media. The exhibition space is filled with color planes. These correspond to the aesthetic photos, because each shows the average color of the original image. Every day at a different place in the exhibition a different color area is exchanged for the real image. The photos have the same proportions as the screen of a mobile phone.


The colour plane left shows the average colour of the esthetic picture on the right. photo Willem Popelier

Each photo contains a bar at the top and cross that refers to the image on Facebook and Instagram Stories. As long as the bar fills up from left to right (this takes a few seconds), the image can be seen. Then the image disappears and after 24 hours it disappears from social media completely. The colored planes hang loose in the room. "By walking between the color planes people will experience the physical scrolling of images on their mobile." Popelier often uses existing images, but for these aesthetic photos he made a selection from photos that he has taken over the past six years.


The colour planes hang loose in the exhibition space. photo Hetty de Groot

After 15 exhibition days and the same number of photos displays, the exhibition has been paused. It was briefly considered to continue the photo display online. And to film the finissage, where the aesthetic images would be shown one by one, and put the video online. But in the end it was decided to continue the exhibition as soon as normal life can be resumed.




Willem Popelier (Eindhoven, 1982) is a visual artist who uses photography as a medium. He mainly focuses on popular visual culture, the ubiquitous image and its effects on society. He studied at KABK in The Hague and AKV | St. Joost in Breda, lives in Utrecht and teaches at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam.


The Do-It-Yourselfie Guide. photos Hetty de Groot


A selection of his projects:

Visual Proof of My Existance. In 2010 he traveled to Florida, without a camera, and collected photos (where he stood) from surveillance cameras, automatically taken photos at attractions and photos taken by tourists. In 2015 he published the book The Do-It-Yourselfie Guide, for which he photographed himself in 66 different selfie poses. Besides being a visual artist, he also appears to be a good actor!