In 2014, a young Fine Art graduated from Central Saint Martins embarked on the performance of a lifetime for an online audience that grew to be over 50,000 strong. Amalia Ulman transformed herself into nauseating a white-girl-gone-wild character for her 5-month long Instagram project “Excellences & Perfections”. She posted images of kittens engulfed by flowers, perfectly plated pink brunches and, of course, an abundance of doey-eyed selfies. To followers stumbling across the account it’s a familiar, albeit extreme, portrayal of a young woman and her enviable lifestyle.
Instagram, probably the most influential app of all time. Entering the year with over 400 million users worldwide the selfie-fuelled phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down. For those who have perfected the art of Instagraming, managing a personal account can become a seemingly glamorous full-time occupation. From behind a smartphone lens and a tastefully selected filter, people have complete control over how they are presented and perceived online. So how much of what we see is real?
However, Ulman was following a meticulously worked out script, outlining every detail of her fictional journey. The story is divided into 3 stages, each mimicking a different female Instagram stereotype. It begins with small-town girl moving to LA, she breaks up with her boyfriend and her life apparently spirals out of control- cue drugs, plastic surgery and a dramatic breakdown.
Ulman’s closing chapter documents her road to recovery, a road paved with detox juices and avocado on toast. It is somewhat genius. Or, at the very least, incredibly entertaining. Amalia Ulman has lifted the curtain on femininity, using her photos to show that femininity is a construction, and not something biological or inherent to any woman. It’s been dubbed by The Telegraph as one of the most original and outstanding artworks of the digital era and has received international applause.
A selection of photographs from Excellences & Perfections will be on show at the Whitechapel Gallery as part of their Electronic Superhighway exhibition, open from the 29th January. We reckon it’s a gripping concept, superbly executed and well worth exploring for yourself
The complete work is available on Instagram, and information about the upcoming exhibition can be found in the link below.