“The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.”
– Marcel Duchamp
“Instagram is a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures… Experience moments in your friends’ lives through pictures as they happen.”
This is an article about Duchamp and Instagram.
I mostly write analyses and reviews of shows. Thanks to the internet and all the newfangled shenanigans the kids are getting up to, it’s increasingly difficult to say what this means anymore. For this piece, I’m going to talk about two hashtags and tell you why they are both a show and a revolutionary movement in contemporary art.
On Monday, The Getty (@TheGetty) and dance company Jacob Jonas The Company (@JacobJonasTheCompany) and Lauren Randolph (@LaurenLemon) co-hosted the latest in the #camerasanddancers creative jam session series at the Getty. It is Jacob Jonas The Company’s 10th #camerasanddancers, which started as traditional ‘Instameets’, informal free meetups by instagrammers, and have grown to their current incarnation as curated events at prestigious cultural institutions. This is also the first meet up for #gettyinspired, an initiative that highlights local audience/artists responding to the work and curated space at The Getty.
#Camerasanddancers brings together dancers and photographers to create images, using Instagram to share the interdisciplinary product, both in real time and with edited photos and short videos for weeks after. The online audience brings the process of creation out of the studio space and into the sphere of public performance. Following the hashtag gives viewers access to both real-time artistic collaboration between photographers and dancers, and edited, curated images, a photo gallery of live performance in digital space. #camerasanddancers serves as promo photo shoots for the dancers, portfolio builders for the photographers, grassroots advertising for The Getty, and genuine free, low-key artistic collaboration for everyone.
Of course, Instagram and artistic collaboration is nothing new. What I’m excited about is the way The Getty is getting in on the action with #gettyinspired. Mainstay cultural institutions are increasingly embracing the idea that their patrons are creating and sharing work inspired by their visit.
Going back to Duchamp, contemporary art has recognized the importance of the viewer in completing the artwork, changing the role of the museum from art storehouse to creative venue, where engaged audiences are as important to the success of an artwork as the work itself. But Duchamp was just talking about audiences completing the work in their minds. #gettyinspired represents a certain level of democratization in the arts, an acknowledgement by the gatekeepers of artistic value that the average patron’s interpretation of artwork goes beyond their viewing to their own creative impulses, which are worthy of value and attention.
#gettyinspired’s evolution of Duchamp is indicative of a new moment in entertainment – a moment where even audiences have their own audiences. Each dancer and photographer – and even yours truly – participated in sharing the performances live and after the fact with their own, discrete audiences. In the 21st Century, anyone with social media is a photographer and a subject, curating an image for public consumption that simultaneously re-creates everyday life and constructs it anew. If Marcel Duchamp talks about the viewer completing the artworks, then this is Duchamp squared, where the audience’s audience are the intended viewers. It’s an infinite hall of mirrors of artmaking, viewing, and interpretation.
What does this mean for our cultural landscape of performance art institutions? Jacob Jonas The Company is a year old, startup dance/creative company that traditionally might play to an audience of a few hundred people in its first year. But guess what? @jacobjonasthecompany has 46,500 Instagram followers at the time of writing. Their last post got 500 likes within three hours, representing thousands of views. It’s popular to bash millennial for any number of flaws, but it’s hard to deny the way our cyborg generation that lives in digital space is redefining cultural consumption for the new century through unprecedented access and participation.
To get involved as a photographer, dancer, artist, or spectator in future #camerasanddancers events, contact @jacobjonasthecompany or firstname.lastname@example.org. To get involved with #gettyinspired, just visit The Getty, create work, and post it with the hashtag. Select work will be featured on The Getty’s website.