Instagram | Art or Baa?
Is Instagram art or a sheep in hipster clothing? Do the quirky feet, artsy sunsets and urban scrawls mean anything at all?
Ah, Instagram. Love it, hate it, stand there and get a bit confused by it… If you’ve got an internet connection you’ve been exposed to it. If you’re a bit snap-happy yourself or just have a Facebook feed full of feet and sandwiches, Instagram is making its mark.
The twenty-first century has done some horrible things to art professionalism. Cynical folks on the internet claim that every teenage girl with a Nikon is now a photographer or an alt model. Social media is getting everyone’s art out there… but what the hell IS some of this stuff?
My own arrogant interpretation of that special little thing called ‘art’ is that it’s a visual expression of creative thought.
I love seeing what other people think, and what they can do with their ideas. When these quirky little shots started popping up everywhere, I got excited. Hell, I got jealous, having broken my camera and being one of the few people who does not own a camera phone. All those moments in my day when I wished I could capture the angle of a shadow on a teacup, or the way my shoelaces conveniently fell into a perfect heart shape when I discarded them after a long day (they did, I promise). And there were people who were doing this sort of thing, and other people were interested in it!
Then came ten thousand pictures of aeroplane wings shot from window seats en route to Paris, shortly before the same ‘quirky’ angle of the Eiffel Tower. It wouldn’t surprise me if future generations after some catastrophe in which all the major landmarks were evaporated somehow confused the Leaning Tower of Pisa with France’s most famous bit of metal, because I’ve not seen a straight up picture of that thing in years. Expertly painted talons wrapped around something whimsical, pictures of coffee and lunch and your shoes. Your cat on a mat, your cat in a hat, on a hat, in the bath… enough, already!
And then the photos of cityscapes and views from train windows, the urban scrawls. Newsflash, camera-lover… You’re not part of the counter-culture expressing your rage at the system; you’re the twentieth person today who took a picture of someone else’s art that they lovingly donated to the public mind (or illegally deposited on someone else’s property. Let’s not condone the illegal).
Suddenly this Instagram art became the worst expression of the proverb ‘imitation is the highest form of flattery’ since someone decided all pop stars needed to have the same haircut, lest people not realise their profession. I can see forty pictures of people’s breakfast whilst I eat my own. If I get bored of choosing what I want to wear, I can go and check up on how the rest of the world is co-ordinating their outfits. And usually, they’ll be featured in (usually) Instagram photos that smack of sameism right down to the ‘quirky’ angle that the shoes are positioned on the floor/bed/kitchen table; I can spot the clones with my eyes barely open. If I see one original shot this week, I’ll gladly kiss the artist holding the camera.
Now, I’m not picky. I won’t rule out anything as potential art. Rap to me. Point me in the direction of a misshaped piece of glass. Splash paint around on a homemade stencil. Your art is your message and we’ve all got a voice.
A question to raise is… what these voices saying if all our photographs document is what we had for lunch and what the sunset looks like (for the benefit of all those who don’t have a window)? They’re saying there’s no such thing as a truly original thought (they say a lot, I know, but they tend to have a point).
Every once in a while, however, there’s a breakthrough.
Artists, please try and be the one to smash that boundary. And I’ll cross my fingers and hope that it isn’t replicated a thousand times a day by anyone with a camera and the ability to add a lo-fi filter…