The way we deal with images has dramatically changed in the age of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and co. Images circulating on digital networks have become the most significant means of personal expression for an extended public. The interactive component of Web 2.0 offers a new dialogue-based space in which users can communicate almost in real time. The frequency of this communication rapidly increases as soon as images become its vehicle; images have considerable affective potential that skilfully plays with the emotions of the recipients and releases spontaneous reactions. What others post is commented on ad hoc and “from the gut”.

The posts include banal moments from the user’s life as well as visual evidence from the trouble spots of current global crises. The meaning of these images arises from the way they are dealt with, from the processes of interaction, marked above all by affective dynamics, between the images and their recipients. The images move the user; they are ‘liked’ en masse or provoke protests, induce criticism or unrestrained attacks; they instigate public debates and appear to create a sense of community. They show up again and again, posted or published in new contexts, altered with image editing programmes or imitated in new footage.

Especially given current forms of political protest, the democratic promise manifests itself via images disseminated on social media and delivers alternative perspectives on current political crises. The increase in ideological propaganda and falsified information in social media may well have discredited this channel as a means of communicating knowledge. In the worldwide protest movements of the last few years, however, the private photo, taken with a mobile phone camera and distributed through networks, has perhaps become the most important instrument for an independent formation of opinion.

This situation is where the exhibition, Affect Me. Social Media Images in Art, is rooted. It presents works from nine international artistic positions that refer to the new phenomena of social media imagery and select particular pictorial material that draws its energy from the context of global political conflicts and civil-social protest on the net. Their work reflects the usage and the semantics of these images as well as considering their aesthetic qualities. Sometimes, they allow us to delve deep into the places and events of our world in upheaval. Sometimes, the artists take a more distanced view. They elucidate the mobilising power of the images and demonstrate how these images create facts and thereby operate along the porous border between reality and fiction.