(Feature Image Source: Screenshot captured from https://instagram.com/p/yUS3ilM4nM/?modal=true)
Three Instagram accounts that caught our eye:
Instagram has become the go-to platform for our daily dose of image scrolling, providing endless ‘selfies’, ‘food porn’, and enough product placements to make your wallet run dry. However, buried within this monotonous, square infested universe, there are creatives using this platform as an archival tool to document their work. Below are three accounts that completely transcend the function of Instagram to produce ongoing projects, incorporating the platform directly into the central aims of their work.
Hans Ulrich Obrist https://instagram.com/hansulrichobrist/
(Image Source: Screenshot captured from https://instagram.com/hansulrichobrist/)
Upon viewing curator Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Instagram account, one is confronted by endless post-it notes and scraps of paper that purvey a quote, some witty and short, whilst others ambiguous and appearing from the deep inner consciousness of the author. Obrist labels these mysterious squares by supplying us with the name of the author and a repetition of the text found on the paper; however he doesn’t provide an explanation into these fleeting expressions, thus producing a thought provoking infliction upon the individual it engages with. By using Instagram in this manner, Obrist enables a multitude of interactions to occur and for these images posses the potential to pass through many contexts and spheres. Whether those changing factors occur in the physical world such as the spectator’s surroundings or in the multifaceted spheres of the internet, this occurrence is out of Obrist’s control, and so these images become curatorially unmanipulatable once posted.
Obrist contends that this project surmounts from his concern of the possibility that handwriting could become nullified; after all, technological expansion is possessively integrated into all of our lives.
“I suddenly realized what we risk to lose should handwriting ever disappear,” he says. “I felt an urge to post an image of Etel’s handwriting. It was the beginning of 700 posts from artists, architects, technologists, scientists, filmmakers and poets. I have a feeling it has only just begun.”1
Thus, Obrist’s project takes Instagram’s form of visual recording, that manifests our capitalist society’s desire for quick and absorptive information, and punctures it with an arguably archaic form of creative processes, whilst seemingly compiling a digital archive of fleeting thoughts from those creative individuals Obrist encounters. Therefore, this account attributes to multiple dimensions, those personal, ‘real world’ interactions experienced by Obrist, and those that happen within the digital realm once these images are posted and acquire their own autonomy.
(Image Source: Screenshot captured from https://instagram.com/tanya_ling )
Known for her creative impact within the fashion design industry, Tanya Ling continues to successfully implement her bold and textural works into the Instagram domain, producing a stream of images that invites the eye to gravitate to the many perspectives available within this format. Ling expands beyond the confines of the compact square, stretching and manipulating her images to exciting degrees.
When viewed on a computer screen one experiences glitches in the misaligned visuals, which transcends texture and energies even further into the paradigm of the spectator. When viewed on a phone, sometimes these images align into one seamless picture across numerous squares, before Ling uploads a new photo to ambush this satisfying continuity. Furthermore, these images can be viewed individually, removing them from their visual partnership to those surrounding squares and allowing contemplation upon the formation of the image.
Thus Ling expands the use of Instagram. Instead of merely documenting her artistic work processes, she incorporates the platform as a visual device in which the spectator’s gaze can land upon the textural occurrences, where lines become continuous and objects are decontextualised down to their formal elements. This sequential image relation between the squares allows for endless scrolling, and it undoubtedly absorbs you into a visual exploration provided by Ling.
Beijing Silvermine https://instagram.com/beijing_silvermine/
(Image Source: Screenshot captured from https://instagram.com/beijing_silvermine/)
The Beijing Silvermine project seeks to reclaim discarded images found within a recycling plant near Beijing. The collector, Thomas Sauvin, adopts an unbiased approach in his selection of images, whereby the content holds little importance to him; it is the process of recapturing these forgotten visual recordings that is significant. Thus, this Instagram feed is one of an unknown realm, showing untold stories and unspecified contexts. The images presented are told in light of their relation to the recycling plant, of which they passed through on their visual journeys, even though the image creator may have no affiliation with this plant. Video journalist Emiland Guillerme comments on Vimeo, April 19, 2012:
Beijing Silvermine is a unique photographic portrait of the capital and the life of its inhabitants following the Cultural Revolution. It covers a period of 20 years, from 1985, namely when silver film started being used massively in China, to 2005, when digital photography started taking over. These 20 years are those of China’s economic opening, when people started prospering, travelling, consuming, having fun. 2
Thus, upon viewing these images, we can find ourselves latched to this context, appropriating the faces and situations presented within the images to a society with a new found sense of freedom, expressing joy and prosperity, despite the perhaps problematic disjunction between this context and the initial unknown context of the photographer.
Furthermore, Sauvin extends this dislocation from the initial context of the image by inserting them into the digital realm, distributing them into unknown spheres and providing them with a significance that got lost in the hidden world of the recycling plant. This erects many questions concerning the importance of images. Do images hidden from spectatorship still hold significance? Or is it the amount of spectators who qualify the images importance? These questions seem especially pertinent on a platform such as Instagram, where it is insinuated that more ‘followers’ and more ‘likes’ on a profile somehow signify and validate importance.
This visual project alludes to many nostalgic stories that will never be fully realised, however these ephemeral snapshots reminiscent of a time past, once again become invested in relation to the visual world of the present in a collective manner, due to the similarity shared between these images, of being discarded near the recycling plant.
A documentary on the Beijing Silvermine Project by Emiland Guillerme:
1 “Instagram Blog,” Instagram, accessed March 01, 2015. http://blog.instagram.com/post/100666949572/hans-ulrich-obrist-handwriting-project.
2 “Beijing Silvermine- Thomas Sauvin,” Vimeo, accessed March 01, 2015. https://vimeo.com/40689438.