Becoming Instafamous is achievable for those who look good in less clothing, are a pro at makeup, have perfectly sculpted brows, and own anything with a brandname. An art student used this formula, not to profit from viral popularity, but to create a critique of the shallow, narcissistic focus of social media.This is Amalia Ulman. She staged photos of herself doing everything trending on social media like plastic surgery, drugs, pole dancing, yoga, cleanses, fashion, sex, and more. She had thousands of followers who bought it and envied her lifestyle. Her project will be the first Instagram series to be shown in London’s Tate Modern museum.The Argentinian artist began her project in April 2014 when she posted an image that said, “Part I,” and captioned it, “Excellence & Perfections.” Her project went through several phases, surrounding the theme of trying to become an enviable social icon in L.A.Her first phase was pretending to be one of those artsy, skirt-wearing, innocent, yet sexy girls who appeal to followers with their pale pink and white color themes. She started modeling lingerie in expensive hotel rooms after her apparent break up with a long-time boyfriend upon moving to L.A. Her phase of sexual photography documented her time as a “sugar baby” trying to make ends meet.She also posted pictures of luxurious brunches, lavish flowers and jewelry, and iconic yoga sessions. All of her posts inspired jealousy and admiration. Shortly, her project started affecting her personal life.
“People started hating me. Some gallery I was showing with freaked out and was like, ‘You have to stop doing this, because people don’t take you seriously anymore.’ Suddenly, I was this dumb bitch because I was showing my ass in pictures.”
Her career prospects seemed bleak for some time, as her sexy images provoked a lot of anger from professionals, but this would have come as a shock to her 10,000+ followers.
Her second phase of the project was a documentation of her life going down the drain, think Lindsay Lohan style. She posted pictures of her getting a boob job, taking pole dancing lessons, and getting involved in drugs.However, her Instagram persona didn’t go down in infamy for long, as she suddenly started making health-conscious decisions and living purely after ending up in “rehab.” She posed in yoga positions, and took pictures of her smoothie cleanse as a sign that she was committed to recovery.Her final post of the project was an image of a black-and-white rose captioned, “The End.” Soon after the project’s completion, she explained that her lifestyle as an L.A. “It girl” was all fake.
“Everything was scripted. 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.”
The idea for “Excellence & Perfections” came to Amalia while she was in college at Central Saint Martins in London, completing her fine arts degree. At the time, she couldn’t afford to create the project the way she envisioned it, and she began working as an escort toward the end of her schooling.With the help and experience of her escort friends, she began the project to give a commentary on how young women portray themselves online. The three parts of her project represent the different stereotypes that have become the most popular on the internet.
Reflecting on “Excellence and Perfections,” she said,
“It was more than a satire. I wanted to prove that femininity is a construction, and not something biological or inherent to any woman. Women understood the performance much faster than men. They were like, ‘We get it — and it’s very funny.’ The joke was admitting how much work goes into being a woman and how being a woman is not a natural thing. It’s something you learn.”
Props to her for actually addressing the roles that women feel forced to play in society, especially on social media…