Reified Realities—Comparing Instagram with 17th Century European Oil Paintings

Reified Realities—Instagram vs. 18th Cent. Oil Paintings / 2018
Design Studio II With Federico Perez Villoro

The emergence of social media has not only changed our ontological states as human beings, but has seeped into our interactions with one another. It has influenced our portrayals of ourselves to the outside world and has radically transformed how the social, economic, and political realities to which we belong are seen by the rest of the digital realm.

During the centuries that preceded us, the primary windows into the socio-economic, cultural and political realities of a particular person or region were oil paintings. The oil painting served to construct, in as truthful a manner as possible, a picture of the background of its subject, his/her standing in society, and their associated virtues and vices, if any.

Today, however, the nature of the digital space has conferred upon us all a powerful weapon — that of manipulation and deceit.

Enter, two distinct species of images:

1. The European Oil Painting from 1650–1900

2. Instagram Pictures from 2012–2018

Both species call attention to their subjects’ economic, social, and political standing in society, their tastes, associations and ideological persuasions. However, only one of them is truthful.

In depicting the landed gentry and mercantile bourgeoisie of the 18th century, the oil paintings served as honest depictions of reality. Truth in conveying notions of taste, status and milieu was central to the medium.

Whereas, the vitality that modern day Instagram profile comes not from honesty being held as an integral maxim, but from the creation of a spectacle of pleasure. In other words, the millionaire teen from Algeria posing with a Rolex finds satisfaction not from the watch or some deep-seated passion for horology, but from the knowledge that others realize he possesses it.

This project seeks to compare the two species of images and how they have served as catalysts in how we have come to perceive the world around us.

Reified Realities / 2018 / Booklet Back Cover

Reified Realities / 2018 / Booklet Front and Back Covers

Reified Realities / 2018 / Booklet Detail

Reified Realities / 2018 / Booklet Detail

Reified Realities / 2018 / Booklet Spreads

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Copyright 2020 Mukul Chakravarthi, All Rights Reserved.