Week 5: Instagram in Museums

Museums have mixed feelings about social media (especially Instagram). While some, such as LACMA and the Broad, want their visitors to pass by and take photos to post on Instagram (the #FOMO is strong here), others want nothing to do with Instagram and how it seems to be just one more app that keeps people’s faces drawn to phone screens, and not the art. However, Sarah Hromack and Rob Giampietro say that museums are faced with less and less choices. With more and more authority being put in the hands of the viewer via the power of social media, museums can’t afford to turn blind eye to how it’s transformed the museum experience.

You could even say that museums have captured Insta-fever. Around two weeks ago, I ran across this article on The Verge that talks about how the Tate Modern in London is going to put a series of Instagram photos on display in the museum. Run by Amalia Ulman, her Instagram @amaliaulman is a performance piece. She is the main character, portraying a small town girl trying to make it in Los Angeles. Apparently, it was compelling enough for the Tate Modern to install a selection of her posts in their space.

What the Tate Modern is doing is taking their interactions with social media (especially Instagram) to a new level. While performative Instagrams are common (and to an extent, all Instagrams are performative), this is likely the first time a major art museum has decided that it would join the echelons of “art that belongs in a museum”. At the same time, Instagram is a form of digital storytelling via photography/videography, so it could also have been considered only a matter of time before a museum decided to install a series of Instagram posts in their halls. There are plenty of accounts dedicated to being performance pieces (such as the woman who tricked her family into thinking she was in Thailand) to expose just how constructed social media can be, and that is art in its own right, I guess. (At least, the Tate Modern seems to think it is.)

2 thoughts on “Week 5: Instagram in Museums”

  1. I find your analysis really interesting, that the medium through which the media exists, is the medium that museums feel are drastically shifting the museum going experience in negative ways. Snapchat, Instagram, Vine all keep us attached to our phones, heads down. In a way, museums that are acquiring and displaying “internet art,” art that uses aesthetics of Internet culture as well the Internet itself, are in a way trying to bridge the gap between our desire to look down at our phones and not up at physical objects. But maybe we will look up now, because those objects are a physical manifestation of our digital world to which we cling most dearly to. We see something were familiar with: the internet! And so maybe we will look up.

  2. I hope my general bias against Instagram doesn’t impede my analysis of the role social media in regards to museums. I can’t help but think if all museums upload pictures on Instagram, the quality of each individual exhibit portrayed on the picture inevitably deteriorates. If there are thousands of museum accounts, though it might certainly increase engagement from the public, it might also render the physical aspect of the museum to be obsolete. I think museums should focus on engaging with the community online, but they should not confine themselves to a single platform.

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