The first-ever Instagram series presenting as art will make its controversial museum debut at London's Tate Modern.
The intriguing series documents the life through photos of a young woman named Amalia Ulman who moved to Los Angeles from a small town and tries to make it big. Bizarrely, she talks of pole-dancing and breast-augmentation surgery. But her Instagram site, with more than 80,000 followers, is a fiction created by artist Ulman.
Her photos of kittens and striped pyjamas and post-shower selfies were created as part of performance art in a piece Ulman calls Excellences and Perfections. Now several of the photos will be featured at the Tate's upcoming show Performing for the Camera, running from February to June 2016, and also at London's Whitechapel Gallery's exhibit entitled Electronic Superhighway (2016-1966).
Excellences and Perfections is intended to be an examination of "constructed femininity," according to the artist. Over the course of the five months, Ulman portrayed three stereotypes of women she believes are common on Instagram, including a small town girl in a big city, and what Ulman calls a "ghetto aesthetic" popularised, she believes, by celebs like Kim Khardashian (she wears a hat with the word "bae" on it). Then her persona slips off the rails, ends up in recovery, and turns into the "girl next door" who likes "yoga and juices," she told the Telegraph.
"Everything was scripted," explained Ulman, an Argentinian who grew up in Spain. "I spent a month researching the whole thing. There was a beginning, a climax and an end. I dyed my hair. I changed my wardrobe. I was acting. It wasn't me."
"It's more than a satire," Ulman added. "I wanted to prove that femininity is a construction, and not something biological or inherent to any woman."
Some have criticised the performance piece as nothing special because it's the kind of thing that's presented on Instagram every day.
In 2015 Ulman had a photographic exhibit documenting her trip to North Korea, called the Annals of Private History, at the London gallery Arcadia Missa. The photos also appeared on her Instagram account in another fictional presentation. "For the same reason I live in LA: because I'm interested in façades and propaganda. Pyongyang is the best and most simplified example of that," she told the Guardian. "I just wanted to see it with my own eyes."
Ulman's not the first to turn Instagram into art. Artist Richard Prince exhibited other people's Instagram photos at a show at New York's Gagosian Gallery in 2014. Some sold for more than $100,000 (£71,000).