Updated: Jul 6, 2022
Social media now influences almost every area of our life. We rely on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to communicate, keep up with the world, arrange activities, meet our most materialistic wants, and even feed our thirst for activism, to name a few things.
As a result, it's only natural for art to become involved in the ever-growing network of social media, given its uncanny ability to both reflect and affect its host societies.
But, like any other relationship, the one connecting these two worlds is both enriching and challenging at times. While social media has the potential to greatly free and develop art, it also raises concerns about censorship and blurs the line between art and other forms of production or design that may aspire to that status.
Photo Credits: Azuzu
A little history about Online Art
Aram Bartholl's "speed shows" are suggestive of the images that flash across a few screens. By using computers for short-term exhibitions, the Berlin-based concept artist transformed genuine Internet cafés into galleries. Bartholl's room installation pays homage to the history of net art, which predates the internet's widespread availability.
The growth of social media, on the other hand, has substantially increased the number of people who examine digital art, not least since everyone nowadays seems to own a smartphone with internet access.
Another story is about an artist, Yayoi Kusama. Instagram's favorite artist, with millions of people photographing themselves immersed in her whimsical mirrored Infinity Rooms, often having to queue for hours before entering the gleaming utopia for just a minute, or under, just enough time to capture the perfect #yayoikusama selfie.
You can check her installations on Instagram, making us wonder if the experience is still about the art, or if it's just another tool to foster the spectator's vanity and overwhelming desire to fit in with the habits cultivated and encouraged by social media. However, as Kusama's shows have taken over the Instagram feeds of a new generation of art fans, a more positive element is the mainstreaming of unconventional ideas and aesthetics.
Street Art in the era of Digitalization
As the effects of social media have had an impact on the entire world, street art has changed and grown in response, embracing its influence. Because the early forms of street tagging supplied the digital architecture of hashtagging, Instagram in particular has been redefining the aesthetics and consumption of street art and graffiti.
Social media's location-sharing features have allowed street art to become globalized; a photo shared on Instagram with the correct hashtags can become viral, eliciting a virtual response from all over the world.
As a digital object, street art has the potential to last longer and reach a wider audience; it is no longer bound by its physical location or ephemerality. The drawback is the possible increase of ubiquity as online patterns gain dominance, leading diversity to decrease and become diluted.
Can Art and Social media go together?
Social media is changing street art into marketing for businesses, retailers, restaurateurs, and even gyms, in addition to reshaping our perceptions of culture.
Corporations are enticing selfie-taking demographics with virally geotagged murals – guerilla advertising that will earn a profit. This "Instagram street art" has nothing to do with the political and social foundations of street art, but rather capitalises on its attractiveness for branding kudos, follows, likes, and, eventually, income.
What these new habits of art interaction are effectively exemplifying is the immense impact that social media is having on every aspect of our life, from marketing to narcissism.
Is it alarming or inspiring? There is, without a doubt, more than one way to look at it. While some trends and money-driven techniques may emphasise the harsh elements of consumerism, damaging the alternative innate value system prized by the art world in the process, social media may also foster genuine new connections and inspiring experiences.