The Noun Project logo for Art Gallery. Credit: Noun Project.

Trivialization Effect

A British MP recently observed, of the social media platform Twitter: "Although I am on Twitter I think it's a fundamentally trivial medium and it is not worth spending so much time fussing about it. I think it inevitably leads to people Tweeting appalling stuff because it's such an unimportant medium."

The context of social media tends to trivialize (SOED: of small importance or value, trifling, slight) content--we might call it the Trivialization Effect. In the end, it's just a hubbub (SOED: confused noise of a crowd shouting or talking; the shouting of a war cry; noisy turmoil; disturbance; a row). And one Tweet, no matter how real, authentic, or profoundly felt, by the writer, invariably enters a great maelstrom (SOED: turbulence or confusion), and is soon drowned-out, passed over or ignored, and soon forgotten.

This state of affairs is demeaning in a way, because if you have typed something that means the world to you, it is not nice to see those words get instantly swallowed up in the clamour. Of course, Twitter pertains to micro-blog posts of a few short sentences, but a visual image posted to Instagram becomes trivialized in the same way--the context renders it of small importance or value, trifling, slight.

The Gram is an instigator of photo-malaise. The Gram is a platform which tends to strip photos of any deep-meaning in so far as each photo is just one more image floating in a homogenous (SOED: of the same kind, nature, or character; alike, similar, congruous) sea of images--an image-bank that expands at the rate of a couple-of-billion new photos per day. Photos on one's Gram-feed are just more photos--the atmosphere is not one that promotes receptiveness to art-and-aesthetics, but rather zoned-out tedium. The Gram is a banality-creating machine; a meaning-removal machine; a photo-mince-meat-grinder which takes any-and-every photo and grinds it into a pulp; a vast photo-soup of triteness--a soggy mass of photo-snapshot overload. Whether we like it, or do not like it, no photo posted to the Gram can ever be anything other than a mildly fascinating diversion.

With this in mind, if you have created a photo-image that seems really important, profound, significant and serious, it may not be such a good idea to choose Instagram as the primary context for its display. And this is where the art gallery space comes into its own: here is a space in which everything on display is aggrandized, dignified, elevated, ennobled, and exalted. The art space is set aside as a place where one single image can be observed and considered in-depth-and-at-length by the patient and receptive viewer.

The art space is (and will always be) the antidote to, and inverse of, the trivializing social-media space. For anyone who has created a photo-image that means a lot to them, the art space remains a valuable context: it is one remaining place in which the viewer is all-but-guaranteed to ponder, deliberate, reflect, contemplate, meditate, muse, mull over, examine, study, and weigh-up whatever is up on display. The art gallery and Instagram mark the two extreme opposed poles of the image-context spectrum of the present.

(1 September 2018)