Are We Instagramming Art to Death?

When Kusama is a selfie backdrop, it’s time to re-evaluate
by The Materialist
OpinionsApril 25, 2018
Welcome to The Materialist, a column that takes apart Asia’s love for the finer, fussier things in life. From designer brands to Instagram trends, The Materialist casts his eagle eye over all and declares it “vaaaaary good” or “够了啦!” (Translation: “Enough already!”)

Alright my queens, let’s talk about the trend that’s taking over the world – I call it the Insta-Museum effect! What’s that, you ask? Well, if you’ve ever scrolled through your social media feeds during an “art festival” period, you’ll know what I mean.

Yes, I’m talking about aaaall those pictures/Boomerang videos/Instagram stories of friends whom you should have unfollowed eons ago, either:
– posing with their Longchamp bag in a room full of dot stickers
– standing in front of an iconic statue but looking away coolly
– or strutting past a famous mural like it’s a runway!

The Insta-Museum effect is taking over the world.

Because these days, the works of famous artists and designers have all been reduced to nothing more than a Instagram feature wall or a selfie backdrop. This global epidemic even forces museums to pander towards a Insta-addicted generation by tailoring the user experience to fit a selfie-stick. No wonder Mark Zuckerberg’s face like chua-sai* liddat.

(*Chua-sai means “to be scared shitless”.)

Left: Rabbit Town (Source: Instagram/@rabbittown), Right: Obliteration Room, Yayoi Kusama (Source: Flickr/interestedbystandr)

The worst example of the Insta-Museum effect is a so-called “museum” in Indonesia that’s taking this Instagram-baiting practice to a whole-nother-level. It’s called Rabbit Town (@rabbittown.id) and advertises itself as “The Way To More Happiness”.

You might think that Rabbit Town’s way to more happiness is a town full of cute little bunnies, but nooooooo, Rabbit Town is actually a series of super-Instagrammable rooms that are blatant copies of some of the most Instagrammed places in the world. Needless to say, the rabbit-loving moon goddess Chang’e would be very disappointed by a trip to this Rabbit Town.

Because here at this Rabbit Town, you’ll instead find ripped-off art installations and famous Insta-spots like:
– Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room
– Chris Burden’s Urban Light
– Colette Miller’s Angel Wings mural series
– and a variety of rooms from the famous Museum of Ice Cream in California

Every time you plagiarize, an angel dies.

Rabbit Town??? More like Copycat Town, huh. The only thing worth obliterating in this place is the plagiarism. Because this is a place that cares so little for originality, their version of Urban Light is called Love Light. This one prostitute house in Soho, ah? You want people to have swafoto (selfie) sex behind the column is it? Varrrrry good!

Listen up, Rabbit Town! Colette Miller’s Global Angel Wings Project stems from her belief that “all humanity can be the good on this Earth if we try.” So… you are supposed to be the good on this Earth instead of ripping famous murals for profit?!? It’s like that saying goes – “Every time you plagiarize, an angel dies”? (Ok, I just made that up, but at least it rhymes.) I know your murals are for those Indonesian sosialita who want to pretend they’re Victoria’s Secret models with angel wings as huge as their hair, but still! Plagiarism is a besar tidak-tidak!

But the saddest truth is… no matter how easy it is to hate on Rabbit Town with all its super-obvious copying… we’re all to blame for Rabbit Town. Because Rabbit Town is just a reflection of our own Instagram-obsessed habits. It’s the result of our own broken relationship with art – how we view it and how we consume it in the social media age.

Let’s face it – we do not just go to museums and art shows for the art anymore, but for the social validation and Instagram likes. In an interview with the Guardian, an art researcher succinctly notes, “People are going to museums not for their knowledge enhancement but more for taking selfies.” After all, did you really see the Mona Lisa if you didn’t take a selfie?

The Insta-Museum phenomenon is everywhere, from the Louvre, to the iLight festival. When Yayoi Kusama exhibited at the National Gallery Singapore last year, I saw a sea of basic bitches looking at Kusama’s work through an iPhone screen. Gurl, that ain’t right!

Like, did you even read the artwork labels??

Art is not supposed to be consumed through a camera lens, only to be used, edited, and posted on Instagram for social validation and a faux sense of cultural awareness. Art should be admired, reflected, and contemplated by whoever staring at it. Whilst I was staring at Kusama’s tit in the Gallery, my inner monologue was totally drowned out by incessant shouts of, “EH HELP ME TAKE PHOTO! TAKE NICE NICE AH!!’ And I swear to Anna Wintour, I was literally shoved to a corner while this siao gi-na (translation: crazy kid) shoved her tit in my face just to take a selfie with Kusama’s tit. Like, did you even read the artwork labels?? Varrryyy good!

Some galleries, such as the Museo Nacional Del Prado in Spain, are fighting the trend by banning the use of cameras, and up until 2014, the National Gallery in London and the Uffizi gallery banned photography. Maybe it’s time for the National Gallery Singapore to consider such an option? Hmmmm…. Don’t shoot me. But I would say that the art community is at an important juncture – curb the Insta-Museum effect at the expense of audience numbers, or allow it to re-define our appreciation of art as social media feature walls. Hmmm, damn deep man, cheemology all.

On a final note, perhaps it’s also for us – the Instagram Generation – to take a moment before pressing “post” and just appreciate and observe the artwork in front of us. After all, if we can put in so much care into the $10 Caltex Petrol saga, I’m sure we can also care about art.

Ok, time for me to go seek some social validation online. Toodles, darlings! xoxo <3

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