Amalia Ulman is an Argentinian artist who works with different mediums, including video, poetry, graphic design, and more recently, iOS applications. One of her recent projects, Excellences & Perfections, explores the concept of society’s obsession with the Instagram “micro-celebrity.” Ulman herself had become so infatuated with famous Instagrammers that she decided to become one herself. She did extensive research to fabricate an identity for her project: “I began by researching the cosmetic gaze and the beauty myth, then I prepared a script and timeline that followed the rhythm of social media. I identified three popular trends: the Tumblr girl (an Urban Outfitters type); the sugar-baby ghetto girl; and the girl next door, someone like Miranda Kerr, who’s healthy and into yoga” (Vulture.com). Next, Ulman set out to create a timeline for her character to act out. Her character found a sugar daddy, who would buy her products such as designer bags, and who also paid for (fake) breast implants. She would travel, meet her friends for brunch, and use the selfie as a form of cultural capital, just as true Instagram micro-celebrities.
Excellences & Perfections is a prime example of how bodies can be quite literally produced in an online space. Ulman was careful to not interact with her ‘fans’ and to keep the project as ambiguous and authentic as possible. Many of her fans, myself included, were totally unaware that her online persona was an art project. Through her performance, Ulman touched upon aspects of the micro-celebrity, through the use of Instagram, and the privileges of a white female who’s income is dependant on a richer male. She also was careful in choosing which spaces were photographed; fans were not sure what to think of the spaces in which her selfies were taken. Does she live in an expensive condo paid for by her sugar daddy? Is she travelling and staying in an expensive hotel? The space’s ambiguity mimics other Instagram celebrity’s relationships to the spaces in which they photograph themselves—they never say where they are, or why they are there at all.
Questions: Do you think Amalia Ulman’s work, as a stand-alone performance piece, speaks to issues surrounding the micro-celebrity? Should we question our acceptance of the micro-celebrity as real? On the contrary, should we be critical of the micro-celebrity’s authenticity?