IG:LU, Inverness, 7-13 March 2011
FOLLOWING Christopher Howell’s installation of Instagram photography as part of IG:LU’s inaugural exhibition in December, Inverness’s newest arts venue hosted PhotoGlobal, the world’s first global Instagram exhibition. This was an exciting, innovative show bringing a world of images to the Highland capital and projecting IG:LU to the world.
The exhibition featured the work of 55 invited artists from Japan, Australia, Russia, Brazil, USA, Singapore, Greece, France, Hong Kong, Holland, UK, Denmark and New Zealand, and more, together with images from over 200 Instagrammers selected from over 4000 worldwide submissions to IG:LU’s PhotoGlobal competition. The PhotoGlobal exhibit displayed over 11,000 pictures during the course of the week.
Using the iPhone app Instagram to create visual Tweets and as a vehicle for social networking, the technology has attracted an estimated 2 million users world wide. Lives revealed in pictures and shared as part of an expanding network cuts across language barriers and this universality enters a different realm of public exposure in the IG:LU exhibition space. PhotoGlobal represents an intriguing dialogue between the professional and personal, the random and deliberate in the choice, creation and display of Instagram images.
The exhibition consisted of a number of different elements; in the IG:LU main space there was a live feed of single images by 55 invited artists projected 5ft square changing in real time as they were posted. At the end of each day images were printed off and displayed in time zone order around the walls in a continuous stream, leading the viewer through the entire IG:LU space. The dimensions of each individual image, the size of a mobile phone screen, are displayed in sequence of posting and create a wonderful collection of individual visual statements that invite close inspection. Over 1000 prints were mounted during the week.
Images from competition winners have been projected within the main space as part of a 63 image picture grid; this changing matrix is a mesmerising installation of random juxtapositions, a snapshot of “a week in the world as it happens”. In addition through the night projections showing posts from all over the globe are viewable from the street below.
The accumulation of images posted throughout the duration of the exhibition made this a show to be visited multiple times, and the collection of photographs by each invited artist made fascinating viewing. One of the pleasures of seeing this exhibition was the strength of individual statements, immediately defining an artist’s vision, style or obsessions, but equally the delight of seeing a sequence which reveals a sudden flash of inspiration amongst images drawn from everyday life.
There are some inspired images in the show, among them works by XXXYXYZ (Brooklyn, USA -5hrs), a series of beautifully observed figures and street scenes with colour layered like an accumulation of graffiti. These images inspire the imagination like a sequence of cinematic stills, creating potential narratives that overlap and separate in the mind of the viewer to weave stories of their own. Treatment of the human subject is particularly compelling in this series; an enigmatic man in white crossing the street or distant figures illuminated in silhouette and framed by upright pillars of black in what feels like a subterranean space read like frames of a moving image.
Equally engaging are series of images by CIRKELINE (Copenhagen, Denmark – 1hr) a stunning series of high definition black and white images, the human figure casting long shadows across an urban landscape and images by THOMAS_K (Berlin, Germany), a combined sequence of sepia and black and white reminiscent of another era. There are many images in the show that could be easily scaled up and command a space of their own as part of a solo exhibition.
The ambiguity of manipulation in relation to the photographic image enters a new realm of debate with the Instagram and other brands of app. Use of filters and manipulation of the image enable an expanded palette, heightening colour and individual elements of the composition which can be used to great effect as part of the overall design. The capacity for new technology to evoke photographic methods of the past; the grainy vintage of a polaroid or the painterly illuminations of an early Box Brownie add layers of interpretation to contemporary images and maintain the essential relationship between the art of photography and human memory. Technology and craft need not be mutually exclusive and the best images in the show achieved a balance between the two.
A striking series of Instagrams by SKWII (Oulu, Finland +2hrs) combine drawn elements and composite images in a unique way; the sequence as a whole is fantastically varied with a flash of humour in two grinning snowmen dwarfing a house Godzilla style. Other images have the polish of a vogue fashion shoot, a model in black on a stark background of pure geometry is repeated as part of an elegant quartet. An image created by HOTELMOTELHOLIDAYINN (Phoenix, Arizona – 8hrs) a black and white shot of a pumpkin headed scarecrow ripe with texture accented by vivid green and bloody orange, or the arrangement of gummy bears in an image by SWEETARTS (Tokyo, Japan +9hrs), part of a series of vividly coloured close ups, are great examples of compositions delivered with accomplished vision and flair.
Artists such as SILVERBOX in their poetically distilled vision of architectural forms, the beautiful combination of objects and elements of urban life in vivid neon colour by LUWISPURPUL, the minute details of interlocking blossom branches and fence lines by BITMAPMANIA and the disturbing figurative imagery created by MAKISS form an impressive display of work by Tokyo-based artists who combine technology and artistry to the highest level.
While social networking sites are full of millions of snapshots that stimulate little interest to a wider audience, the Instagram, as represented in this show, displays exciting new possibilities not just for connection but for creative expression. Technology might have democratised culture but there remains a vast difference between a hundred wallpaper sunsets tinted benignly with colour and a beautifully composed shot of an object, person or place, previously unseen that makes you want to stop and spend quality time with it and stays with you long after you’ve left the exhibition.
Ultimately it’s the eye of the artist enables us to see; framing the shot and creating the possibility of layers of meaning in league with their technique, whether the tool is an iPhone app, a paintbrush, chisel or video camera. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with a deluge of visual information to be compelled to stop and contemplate the visual in real terms is a welcome pleasure. Thankfully IG:LU as a space facilitates this kind of exchange in playful, dynamic and unexpected ways.
PhotoGlobal is an exhibition of stylistically accomplished visions, memories and singular moments intelligently brought together in a way that engages with the dynamics of accident and design which define this new creative medium. Like the myriad of thoughts and lives that populate the planet, it is impossible to take it all in as part of a singular view, which is precisely what makes it such an engaging show; the viewpoint is constantly changing and the viewer is left wanting to see more of individual artist’s works and their potential engagement with other art forms. The result of an IG:LU collaboration between Rita Farragher, Graham Hanks, Andrew Grant and Christopher Howell, the curatorial approach is as creative as the work it engages with.
The PhotoGlobal exhibition can be viewed online for another week from 14 March, and there plans to develop a permanent PhotoGlobal website. As the fourth event in IG:LU’s history, this is an exciting development in a venue which is rapidly establishing itself as one to watch and revisit; reactive to cutting edge artistry and proactive in its engagement with a global audience.
© Georgina Coburn, 2011