Spectacle as Participation
We are voyeurs of ourselves. With publishing the self, we actively participate consciously. We have a new obsession with the other because of set infrastructures of communications that have been established. Methahaven states, “We are ourselves the drugs. We are possessed by us. The age of the internet isn’t a sprawling network of mega structure enveloping the world, it is the age of massive emotional changes that it brings out in people.”(video). Through publishing the self, voluntarily participation within an infrastructure allows for a new form of communication to converge along with a new form of the centerpiece of social relations as mentioned by Baudrillard. Art is no longer that centerpiece, but rather the
products of interaction and participatory systems that fill the void.
Guy Debord within his book Society of The Spectacle he defines the spectacle as, “a social relationship between people that is mediated by images” (Debord 2). This is not a new concept and has only expanded further through our interaction of social media and various platforms in which image making and images are glorified. Deobrd goes on to say that “all that once was directly lived has become mere representation.” (Debord 3). This concept has become more and more true, except that now instead of media creating the images through advertising, movies, photographs and being disseminated, the populous have turned into being responsible for the images, and having that image making power. It is really how the language of the images themselves can be utilized from an outsider’s perspective.
Artists such as Amilia Ulman explore the tropes of Instagram, especially for women, through the idealization of the body and self, the projection of personality through the display of objects or literal self. I see her piece Excellences and Perfections on Instagram as almost an homage to Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills. The difference being Amlia Ulman has taken the notion of the self producible image, the visual language which Instagram instills among these tropes, and how they can be repeatable and believable. Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills was an analysis of the portrayal of women within movies. Today, not only women, but everyone has adopted a type of visual language they want to express within these interfaces especially Instagram.
Instagram : _copycat__
Instagram as a platform has not been the birthing but rather a catalyst to the popularization of the selfie. The selfie is an act where the insertion of self acts as living proof of evidence. Ownership of the material, the moment which was captured is only in proof if there is a physical insertion of self within the photograph. Within Instagram as mentioned before, image making has turned to the participants within the network rather than from an overarching power or designer itself. It is the formation of the infrastructure and how it is utilized that dictates the image aesthetic themselves. We copy each other constantly, taking hints on how to portray ourselves in a certain way and how we want to be received by the public of Instagram. Weather this has been done consciously or unconsciously this is a way in which the culture of the copy and re-appropriation of composition or content has been appropriated and reused by the other. Jean Baudriard states in is book Simulacra and Simulation that mass culture is a set or ritualized signs of culture as well as participation is a liturgy or ritual that remains of collective participation and would be undermined by symbolic processes (Baudriard 78). The reproduction of these images are the ritual of Instagram, the pattern language that has been established and can be utilized in a new way. This has come to the fact that now Instagram has created image tropes and tools.
Within this project, through searching hashtags of different body parts, I reprinted cut out and rephotographed these images onto my body. By reposting and tagging both the original user and archiving the image via the body part, the image goes into circulation and is known to those who I have taken from. The aggressive cut out and the stark difference between reality and what has already been posted is apparent and acts as an interruption of my own self just as through posting it is an interruption to the ubiquity of images within the interface.
This project also goes back to Claire Bishops’ notion of participation of exclusion and inclusion. People within my network and others who are using the interface in a different way understand to a certain degree what I am trying to achieve. Rather, the users who I am taking from and the Instagram community as a whole do not understand and act as my secondary audience.
This also goes into the notions of authorship and ownership of these images. Is there a sole author if it is a constantly appropriated aesthetic? Within graphic design, it can be argued we copy what has been established formally as an access point of what will be received by the public. This process is done consciously and or unconsciously. We study the vernacular which surrounds an area as a way to gain an access point within a community. Within the Instagram interface, it is a set global vernacular of the beautification of one’s own existence (in some cases). Through this project, it acts as a study of Instagram’s visual language. Through the questioning of ownership, Instagram’s own terms and conditions which states that Instagram as well as the person who posts the original image, technically. But no one can own a visual language. Perhaps this an act of reclaiming a visual language within this new interface while representing the old.