On Instagram + Contemporary Art


If you're expecting any answers, click away now, I don't have them. I keep thinking about instagram and art, instagram and installation, the social media tool that has the potential to be a portfolio, a diary, a mini-blog in ways so much more than twitter or facebook. Maybe it's because I'm a visual person, I am able to remember so many bizarre things if I can picture the scene it took place in. If in my minds eye I can see myself from outside, reading, drawing, doing, I can remember any trivial or perfunctory thing.

Recently I've been seeing blog-friends posting images on social media of them in Do Ho Suh's installation at Victoria Miro, it happened when Yayoi Kusama exhibited at the same venue. These glimpses of the art and blog-friends with art raised questions and thoughts, and I found it bizarre that in the case of Kusama, I almost felt like I had seen the work already, due to it's popularity as a photography opportunity.

I'm going to try and elucidate my thoughts.

Instagram, Installation and 'The Photo Opportunity'

Ok, lets be honest here, having your photo taken in a Kusama or Do Ho Suh installation is cool. The artists have created wonderful spaces that allow the photographer to take pretty portraits. The lighting, the colours, the shapes make for interesting compositions and, as a general rule, making your skin look fantastic.

Sharing these images on instagram, you not just allow others to see the art, but they see you looking pretty super in the art too. A quick look at the location tag for Victoria Miro on instagram shows beautiful people being beautiful in a beautiful installation. It is within this that the exhibition is opened up to a whole new demographic of viewers. There are a host of people going to the installation to take photos and I think this is a good thing. It breaks down barriers between contemporary art and those that may not normally visit an art gallery. I'll take my normally cynical hat off and hope that those who are visiting the works are thinking about the works, too.

The popularity of installations such as these is good news, too, for the Victoria Miro gallery. Their footfall increases and it gets their name out there as a place to visit. This looks good to artists that may want to exhibit there, because believe me, having no-one at a private view is upsetting. (When looking at the top posts on instagram for Victoria Miro location tag they're mostly Do Ho Suh.)

This, though, has a double edged sword. I remember when Brittany of Sea Of Atlas wrote about the Yayoi Kusama exhibition. I remember feeling like I'd already seen this exhibition, not in the same way as actually seeing it but I definitely had thoughts about it without ever being there. (I was actually gutted to not see it, fyi.) The exhibition was more widely seen by users of social media than if it hadn't been such a photographically aesthetic installation. I remember seeing so many images of people in certain parts of her installation, and these people did look cool and it was the thing to do (and why did I not get my photo taken, too?)

The artists work became a scene for people to play out their best selves, and that is a really interesting thought. The artist as a set-designer for the photographic opportunity.

Anyone in the creative fields knows how important documentation of works is. It's part of the reason I re-worked my instagram. If you're creating something you want it to look as good as it is. Documenting the work becomes as much work as the original work. Galleries are set up that they are stunning places, good lighting, (classically) clean and bare to allow the work to shine. With the rise of people sharing these installations on social media, they become documented not just by the artist, the representative, the gallery but by visitors too. Historically art students have drawn and documented others' artworks, but with the rise of technology I think this is a 'new' type of documentation. Part of this documentation is that suddenly there are a lot of photos of different individuals taken by different people that look similar (as demonstrated by top posts on instagram when searching #yayoikusama).

If you'll allow me, for a moment, to talk as someone who has created installations, and as someone who misses making such large works, the idea of so many people visiting and documenting the work is wonderful. I want to see people interacting with my works, even if that interaction is solely based on it being a good photo opportunity. When I did exhibit 'You Never Bought Me Flowers [...]' I was overjoyed when people emailed me photographs of them in my work, or even just of my work. I'm not sure how popular instagram was in 2012, but I would have liked to have seen the impact that it might have had.

I'm sure this isn't as interesting to anyone else as it is to me, but I've long harboured silly thoughts of what could be done with instagram, about how the gallery has changed, and how we interact with artworks.

I'm thinking about how others documenting themselves in the work becomes a work in itself, I think about how the audience interacts with the work. I think about how awesome it is being surrounded by someone elses' creations. I think about how instagram is such an important marketing and documenting tool for those in the visual arts. I think about why no-one has taken photos of me looking awesome in someone's awesome works. I think about how I could expand on so many points I've mentioned into ridiculous detail.

I warned you that I didn't have any answers.