Art In The Instagram Age: Is Social Media Changing Creative Immersion?
An afternoon out that a person takes to enjoy art, used to involve a simple trip to a gallery or museum, where hours can be spent on viewing and appreciating the finer nuances of creative expression.
Now, we have Instagram – or other similar digital platforms, which brings art to you.
How has that affected the way we appreciate art? Has it even altered the meaning of art itself?
What’s for sure, art is every bit as enjoyable as it was. Just that now we have a lot more options to access it. Not so much only a physical experience, it is as also a digital and social one.
But is this changing (read: ruining) the experience itself?
We have often heard of how social media has disrupted the joy of travelling. A tourist’s selfie stick hitting you, for example – or crowds of Instagrammers flocking to a spot to capture the most “Instagramable” picture to post.
Art enthusiasts are currently faced with the same problem.
For the ‘gram’
Imagine an exhibition at the museum in your city is making additions to its collection. You’re extremely excited. Perhaps the Barack and Michelle Obama official Smithsonian portraits are to be put on display.
When you get there on opening day, a long line of visitors await patiently. Some have had to queue for hours.
And then the moment of truth is unveiled – these people who finally get to the front of the line, don’t actually marvel at the art pieces. Instead, they snap a photo – or a selfie. Most don’t even raise an eye from their phone screens.
Such a scenario was reported by Quartz in 2018.
Perplexing as seems, more exhibitions are catering to the Instagram crowd.
Those “no photos allowed” signs that museums and art galleries are famed for are no longer in sight. Or at least, a lot of establishments have changed their policy.
There are even art festivals planned to cater for social media engagement. Such events are being marketed as “Insta-friendly”.
The Dodecalis Luminarium, a large immersive art installation in Darling Harbour as part of last year’s Sydney festival, saw visitors flocking to check it out – or rather, take photos for their Instagram.
That same year, the Adelaide festival featured a supersized doll’s house. In Perth, the Supreme Court Gardens were transformed into a Brothers Grimm fairytale forest. Brisbane had an installation of infinite doors, and Darwin, a giant inflatable artwork called Blue Air.
All of them were targeted for social media users who wanted nothing more than to produce beautiful content for their accounts.
The new immersive
Maybe it is not just a matter of social media. Creative content is not just static things anymore. To capture a newer generation of art lovers (millennials or Gen-Zs), the industry is turning to new technology.
Consider Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. This travelling exhibition combines Vincent Van Gogh’s life story with an in-depth immersion into the heart of his art.
Using virtual projections, it tells a colourful story and delves deep into the life of the famed painter. It has thrilled visitors in Naples, Italy, Brussels, Belgium and the UK.
At the end of the exhibition, visitors will have had travel through eight of Van Gogh’s works and their sources of inspiration – namely his room, the meadows, the forest, the village and ending with Starry Night over the Rhone River.
An upcoming exhibition, Seeing The Invisible, will use augmented reality technology to make the invisible visible. Through an accompanying app, sculptures that can’t be seen with the naked eye will be digitally revealed to visitors.
The curators, Tal Michael Haring and Hadas Maor, have teamed up with international artists such as Ai Weiwei, Refik Anadol, El Anatsui, Mohammed Kazem and Sigalit Landau for this special exhibition.
Seeing The Invisible will be held simultaneously in 12 botanical gardens in the US, UK, Israel, South Africa, Australia and Canada, starting in September.
While augmented reality is by itself a standalone concept, it has already been making huge inroads into social media. Again, a matter of art unable to escape the pull of social media?
Art… or not?
Purists are of course, doubting whether such endeavours can actually benefit the art industry. But as much as art imitates life, life is now revolving around social media.
In 2014, Seattle’s Frye Art Museum created an entire exhibition, #SocialMedium, based on public votes from various social media.
The most “liked” paintings from the museum’s Founding Collection were shown in the galleries along with the names and comments of nearly 4,500 people around the world who voted.
For Tinder Project in 2017, Berlin-based artist Ji-yeon Kim worked on painting 100 portraits of strangers she had come across while swiping on the dating app.
She explained on her website that portrait art to her is an anachronism in the digital age. It is her belief that it is “the observer who has to move, not the object, it cannot be “swiped away”.
“Bringing back images of human beings from the digital to painted portraits triggers these very contradicting emotions on imperfection and self-assertion and helps to understand us in a more profound way.”
This only goes to show that the art industry has definitely been influenced by social media. Whether the change is good or bad, it depends on who you talk to.
For proponents of platforms like Twitter, Instagram or TikTok, the content they create and post up online are art too. While those who don’t fancy oversharing will obviously think that this “new” art is nothing more than digital noise.
Cover Credit: Redd / Unsplash
Writer | Jake Thanh
Jake Thanh does not see himself as cultured – because he is not a yogurt. He instead prefers being viewed as a person in touch with the world, and all the wonderful experiences that come with living life to the fullest.