Chief Article Writer Brittany Sutcliffe shares her thoughts on Social Media.
It’s always refreshing walking into a gallery space. With a lot of conceptual art these days, you might have the work in front of you but you have to wait for the punchline to be revealed from either a guide or the artist themselves in order to properly grasp the work. It can be a little patronising at times but for me, it’s necessary in order to feel like I’ve come away with something to think about. One area of art we don’t need guides or artist explanations for is social media. We already have the punchline, we are the punchline.
Amalia Ulman, a 2011 Central Saint Martins graduate, fooled us all for three months straight as she staged her posts (@amaliaulman). She took on different Instagram personas that we’re all familiar with. The Shopaholic. The Bad Girl. The Foodie. The Princess. The Fitness Freak. Often posting photos the likes of which, you or I have already seen appear on our newsfeeds, timelines and notifications. Her intention was to prove how easily people can be manipulated through the use of previously encountered mainstream archetypes.In our very own BUMF gallery space, we have had two third-year Fine Art students who strike a similar note. Patrycia Pluto’s hashtags are intentionally difficult to read which I think references an important point about low attention spans. In the year 2000, you could have our focus for approximately 12 seconds. In the year 2013, Microsoft double-checked this and found that number had dwindled down to just 8 seconds. Congratulations, it’s official, on average we have a lower attention span than a goldfish. I bet you any money you’d miss Patrycia’s hashtags if you saw them online:
Natasha Salkeld’s work is a visual representation of how oversaturated our lives are with online interaction. She too faked an Instagram account, consistently posting about girls whose blood is made of kale smoothies and can squat until the sun goes down (or something like that), on an account under the name @xoxoxogirls. It had only been running for a little over a week and had gained over 2000 followers before stealthily disappearing. If that large following doesn’t tell you that we’ve got a bit of a problem, then I don’t know what will. Or perhaps I do. Perhaps the fact everyone was crowded round the big Snapchat code that she’d also hung up to directly link everyone to the account. Not only is technology changing who we think we are but how we interact in real life too. Scary stuff.
I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom, really I don’t. Art’s always been used to provide commentary on the social, cultural and political issues of our time. It gives us a more engaging window-style alternative to look back through when you’re struggling to focus on your history books, now more than ever after finding out goldfish have a better attention span than us. Like it or not, social media’s an integral part of our lives now, as is the technology that comes with it. What I want to know is, where are we going with it all? How long are we going to keep telling ourselves it’s good for us, that we’re using it to stay in contact, until enough research comes out to put us off?Okay, okay. A tad overdramatic maybe. Can we take a breather for a sec? Use it for Skyping our families when they miss us? Educate ourselves when we don’t understand? Express ourselves when there’s no one around? Teach ourselves something new on a rainy day? Alleviate a little deadline stress with the odd video of The Rock lip-syncing to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” (a personal favourite I might add). Just to name a few positives that have come our way from it all. “Everything in moderation” as they say, just remember to stop and take a step back every once and awhile.
Words by Brittany Sutcliffe // Illustrations by Nkech Nwokolo