Everything is Catfished.

In the advent of landscape and portrait painting, there arose framed views of the world and its inhabitants as potential images.


Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom states that "Instagram has changed the way people see the world,” with its equitizing effect on photography, fashion, graphic design, and other forms of visual culture. Whether Vogue or regular Joe, we are all fashionistas.

Photo from Vogue Magazine’s Instagram


Photo from Ashley Busby’s Instagram (friend of the author)


In my design courses, we’ve held the recent discussion of certain “formats” in which we see images, thanks to Facebook, Instagram, and other social media: the “cover photo” panorama, the square profile-picture or Instagram post, for instance. We designate much of what we see around us as images to be uploaded into these specific shapes, or frames. Is Instagram the single largest shift in the way we see since advertising? Since the notion of landscape? Everything is subjected to the square, the filter, saturations. Yes, Photoshop and ways of editing photos have existed for a while now, but the instantaneous, in-your-hands-constancy of the smartphone is possibly focusing the way we see in an immediate, semi-visceral way. Perhaps we have returned to the Renaissance in this rebirth of vision, seeing everything in windows...or Mac. (I couldn’t help myself.)


Albrecht Durer, (detail) Self-Portrait at 26 (1498)


The question lies here: in this democratic visual system, is the “real” becoming flattened, mentally registered as an image to be screened as instantly as it’s absorbed? It’s possible that we are catfishing ourselves, turning every experience into a “better” thing online. For example, is my sandwich consequential enough to become an image worthy of “likes”? Moreso, as an artist, does the painting I make matter as much as, or at all, in comparison to how its details photograph, with slightly amped-up contrast? Do I have to consider objects at all, or simply make things to be documented, uploaded, edited, liked, and followed? This isn’t exactly a problem. Maybe I should see it as a freeing position in which to be placed. Other artists, i.e. Richard Prince, are reveling in the new appropriation of sight.


Richard Prince, New Portraits, Gagosian Gallery, NY 2014


First Post From the Author’s Instagram


Still, where does this leave me with the way I (we) see? Paging John Berger! I’m a hypocrite, I am an artist with an Instagram, with several detail shots of work looking much more sumptuous that the thing itself (partially due to the dream-like quality of my phone photos, since it’s broken and the lens won’t focus.) I paint things, I photo them, and I put them online. What happens when my messy, stringy studio experience is ultimately neatly placed into a square, sanitized virtual space? I’m beginning to think that I don’t want my experiences to be democratized, I want them hierarchized. I want symphonic crescendo. I want points of transience, in-between-ness, unadulterated by the prospect of being viewed.

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