Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Are Instagramers Artists?

Are Instagramers artists? I don't think I can answer that question without sounding ridiculously academic or cliche, but with that said, let's think about the types of people who use Instagram:
  1. Trained artists
  2. People who define themselves as artists, but have no formal training
  3. People who enjoy (over)sharing their lives via Instagram 
Obviously, no one group is exclusive and there will be crossover, but for the sake of arguing, let's keep each group as a self-contained entity. 

So, looking at the first group, trained artists (who are definitely artists) use Instagram in three main ways: as a medium itself; as a public sketchbook of ideas for making art; as a means to promote their work.

The second group of people are the ones who define themselves as artists, but have no formal training in any creative field. And by formal training, I mean at the tertiary level of education. I would guess that most of the people in this category are in their teens or early twenties, but I have no empirical evidence to support this and for all I know this group might be mostly made up of bored 40 year old househusbands or housewives. My own observation of people in this group (yes, I follow people on IG who are definitely in this category) is that they are more obsessed with the idea of being an artist than with actually being an artist; however, one could argue that this is pretty much true of people in the first group. The only difference being is that people in the second group aren't freaking out because they have over $200,000 of art school debt, which is another issue altogether and has no place here in this argument. Could the members of group two be classified as artists? Yes, and no. Outsider Art art-making has a rich tradition throughout history and I think some of the folks in this group are the latest in the long line of production and output by this class. However, the majority of people in this group are not artists and never will be, regardless of how they define themselves. At some point, you have to JUST SAY NO

Lastly, we have the group of people who use Instagram, because they love to share their lives with the world and they couldn't care less about being an artist or creating art. However, this group is driven (as are the other two groups) by the need to see (and share) the world through a square-framed image, which makes me think that some kind of art is being made and that the members of this group are artists, albeit by some vague definition of the word (which basically contradicts what I said about the majority of people in group two not being artists). 

These thoughts (and clearly, I've thought a lot about this) lead me to the video below, which poses the question, "Is Instagram the best thing to ever happen to photography?" I have to answer, yes, yes it is. And I would add that it might possibly be the best thing to ever happen to art.

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