378,709 posts (6th June, 2018)
Instagram has in less than 8 years become the most widely used and popular image based social media platform in the world. Largely known for its ‘selfies’, bloggers and ‘insta-famous’ brand ‘influencers’, it is also being used by artists, curators and arts organisations (including galleries, museums and biennales) and audiences around the world to an ever-greater degree. The tech giant is being employed extensively to help launch biennales, keeping them relevant, and in the process changing the way arts audiences engage with art works and behave at art events.
We thought we would scour (publically available) images using the #biennale on Instagram and found that more than 378,000 posts had been captioned with this hashtag. In the following pages we have selected the typical and not so typical forms of ‘interaction’ from publically available posts, free of copyright (we hope).
Since its launch in 2010, Instagram, with its hyper-engaged audience and image focussed screen layout, has become a social media staple across the art world. For biennales the site offers another platform: archiving their work online, engaging & interacting and marketing themselves to the world. Many biennales, both in the Global South and developed West, are using ‘Insta’ to their benefit and in a lot of cases Instagram has become essential to their marketing and communication efforts. In turn, audiences (and art world professionals) are very diligently and routinely checking their Insta in an increasingly addictive manner, hoping to be ‘part of the conversation’ lest the dreaded ‘FOMO’ rears its depressing heads in our digital lives.
Biennale Instagram accounts are replete with ‘progress’ and ‘making of’ shots and offer abbreviated descriptions of the stages of evolution in a given biennale cycle. In turn many artists are aware of this and are ensuring to upload personal shots on their accounts, tagging their hosts and collaborators, creating excitement and anticipation along the way. Audiences gratefully respond to this ‘up close and personal’ relationship with artists and curators and a host of other actors and agents that make up such large-scale art events.
With this profound and sudden change in how audiences are connecting with biennales, some theorists are concerned about art works and art events losing their integrity and mystique. Whichever side of the debate you fall on, one thing is for certain: traditional ideas about how audiences and arts organisations interact and communicate have changed forever. The art world is moving towards unfamiliar territory, and with the rapid evolution of yet to be launched new technologies, only time will tell what the future holds for biennales and their audiences.
We certainly don’t think that Instagram is the future of the art world, but it is a decisive step in a new direction, how these technologies develop is in the hands of you the users, so over to you. Enjoy! #biennalemirror #biennaleinstagram #instabiennale #instafomo #instanow
Shwetal A. Patel is a founding team member of Kochi-Muziris Biennale (India) and PhD scholar at the Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton.