When we think of art, we think of museums. We think of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. We think of artists who died ages ago, of artists who devoted their life to art, of artists who we could never compare to. We tend to put art in a far away bubble, as if it were something we could never create. However, creativity is a distinct part of humanity, and so I hardly think we are as far away from being artists as it might seem. In fact, social media gives everyone a platform by which to exercise creativity and be artistic.
Instagram in particular gives users this ability. While other platforms emphasize text posts, Instagram necessitates that users provide a picture, a visual component. This naturally lends itself to a community of blossoming artists, of photographers, animators, bakers, and musicians. I immensely enjoy the ability to follow these artists, and I appreciate the art which they are offering the world. I am eternally fascinated with the variety of ways you can work with light to create different moods. I deeply love the way colors interact with each other to make something new and beautiful. Yet, what fascinates me more than the art which is classically beautiful is the art which seems like it shouldn’t be considered art at all.
Along with its mainstream cliques, Instagram also hosts a variety of groups which produce and create things which we might not consider art. An example of this is memes. While I hardly would consider memes to be fine art, they require both a visual component and an aspect which pulls the viewer in. Even more oddly, often it is shoddy craftsmanship which makes the meme better. Perhaps this is the millennial’s lack of care about what is real and true and beautiful, or maybe it is the millennial’s need for instant gratification via the internet. Perhaps you are appalled that I am even discussing memes in an article about art. Yet, memes allow people to relate to others across the world. Some memes are for a particular community, but most touch on the dynamics of human interaction. Sure, memes might not necessarily be the best way to create international community, but it would be hard to deny their presence and rise to popularity in our culture.
This is what fascinates me. I hardly want to call memes art, but there is an art to creating a good meme. There is an art to creating a good Instagram post. We could discuss what makes art good, but my focus is on the art which people don’t see as art, on the art which might not be art–or, at least, not good art. While we tend to view art as far away, I would suggest we expand our view of art. Art can still be art if it doesn’t hang in a museum. Art can still be art if it doesn’t hang at all. But, can art can be art if you don’t think it’s art?
If you’ve ever been to an art museum, surely you’ve stumbled upon a canvas painted a single, lonely shade of green, with one, horizontal stripe of black across the bottom. You probably wondered how the piece made its way into a museum. You might have even thought to yourself that you could make better art. Yet, there you are, not making art, while the creator of green canvas with a black stripe has a piece in the museum, a platform for their art.
This is where Instagram plays a role in art, for Instagram gives us a means by which to project our art into the world. In our economy, artists often can barely scrape together a month’s rent. This is because art is not something that can be made on an assembly line, so it’s not widely profitable in the same way that shoes or glasses are. Yet, we continue to exercise our creativity, and we continue to create. Thus, perhaps Instagram is our virtual, modern day museum. The individual is the creator of their own exhibit, and the followers are the viewers who peruse galleries at their leisure. You can choose which gallery to view, how long you spend in it, or if you go at all. While Instagram posts may not leave international legacies for centuries to come, Instagram allows users to promote their art without forcing them to make a career out of it. It puts power into the people’s hands, and it gives them a means by which to be artists on their own time, by their own standards, and for their own purposes, and perhaps that’s part of the art itself.