Contemporary mobile media affords new insights into social and creative practices while expanding our understanding of what kinds of public space matter. With the continual rise of the social in contemporary art which sees relationships as the medium, smartphones have become important devices for individual political expression, social exchange and now contemporary art. This article draws on media studies and contemporary art theories to discuss #unmaskedselfiesinsolidarity (2020), a socially engaged artwork engaging more than 300 contributors in a few short weeks within the online and physical spaces of RMIT University in the heart of Melbourne, Australia. This artwork was instigated during the initial February 2020 outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China in response to expressions of fear and isolation, travel bans, and growing racism targeting international students. It employed one of the most pervasive barometers of popular and public culture today, the selfie. Through its messages of care alongside signs of solidarity from Chinese students suffering anxiety and isolation, #unmaskedselfiesinsolidarity moved individual selfie expressions of identity into the realm of socially engaged arts and public space.
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