“…with their pre-eminently precarious identities, artists, too, consciously or not, intentionally or not, undergo various makeovers throughout their lives, as they have done throughout history, from romantic genius to flex worker to, yes…zombie.”

Jorinde Seijdel

Jorinde Seijdel



People living in the 21st century are more than ever encouraged to be themselves and shape their own lives. But Western society’s belief in individualism and liberalism is also inseparably connected to a capitalistic market economy in which individuals and their lives are both products and the means of production. In the daily makeover games and reality shows, identities and lifestyles are used as raw materials and enticing signs and indications, and immaterial products are released into the immediate and full universe of the producer-consumer. Social and cultural identities are manufactured and sold ready-to-wear. Those who manage these identities exercise power and control.At the same time, the Internet and the social media have given rise to new ‘forms of life’ such as the data body, virtual persona and online avatar, which can be manipulated internally and externally. The DIY credo of the digital culture likewise has done away with the dichotomy of professional and amateur in favor of the ‘pro-am’, a more contemporary and more profitable and creative identity.

However, an alternative actor is also coming to the fore as a result of the interaction of the digital with material social reality, functioning as an occupier who, as an expression of biopolitics, employs its own body and takes over time and space in a new manner.

In the 21st century, the art of living is both a practice of freedom and a succession of transformations and transitions of people, bodies and identities in an assiduous search for autonomy and ideal self-images. The ‘makeover’, in the sense of a social and cultural metamorphosis, perhaps presents itself here as a kind of current survival tactic in just the right form, and can have both a camouflaging and alerting effect. And with their pre-eminently precarious identities, artists, too, consciously or not, intentionally or not, undergo various makeovers throughout their lives, as they have done throughout history, from romantic genius to flex worker to, yes…zombie.

Jorinde Seijdel is a writer and an art historian who publishes regularly on subjects that are concerned with the topic of art and media in the developing society and its public sphere. Currently she teaches Theory at GRAC and is editor-in-chief of Open. Cahier on Art & the Public Domain. Seijdel has contributed articles to many books and to magazines such as Metropolis M, Flash Art, and De Witte Raaf. In 2010 she published “De waarde van de amateur” (The Value of the Amateur, Fonds BKVB, Amsterdam), about the rise of the amateur in digital culture and the notion of amateurism in contemporary art. Seijdel lives and works in Amsterdam.