I am obsessed with Instagram; like heroin to an addict, it just works for me. But, like heroin, the relationship is very complicated. I have my good days and I have my bad days. The attraction is simple: Pictures + One Liners. It has to come from my education. At Cal Arts, using imagery and text was "all the rage." I’d like to rattle off a bunch of influential artists’ names to impress you here, but I wasn’t really paying attention to all that. I was as self-indulgent in college as you could get. I just did whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it - It was an awesome time.
Now I’m 47, and as hard as I try, I’m not allowed to behave like that very often. So, enter Instagram.
I love to look at pictures and I can go deep. Back in the day, I had stacks and stacks of magazines, everything from Fashion to Music, Cars, Pornography, Cooking, Sports. It didn’t matter what, I would literally tear through them, ripping out pages and scrawling one-liners across the images. Most of these creations were shit, but a few of them were quite good. Eventually, I took it a step further and got into screen printing; while I enjoyed the end result, I found the process tedious, like exercise. The head of the screen printing lab, Dan, was a cross between Joe Walsh and David Lee Roth. He was awesome and totally burnt to a crisp. I hung around there for some time, but never really got serious with it. I did make a few decent pieces while I was hanging with old Dan The Man. Screen printing was perfect, because you could lay screen on top of screen with image and text, and it looked legit. But eventually, I went back to my magazines, markers, scissors, and tape.
There is a direct correlation between what I was doing back in 1989 and Instagram. But the problem with Instagram is that it’s too easy - too easy to get images, too easy to post, and honestly, too easy to get lost in some perpetual narcissistic feedback loop. Now, it's okay to be a narcissist; somebody’s got to do it. I’m one, so it’s okay (according to me,) but I’m a narcissist with a little humility. The selfie shit is obvious, so I’m not going to waste your time there. Everyone does selfies, it’s true, but everyone picks their nose, too. Sometimes you just don’t want to see that.
Instagram becomes a problem for me when I start to use it as my sole form of social communication - the only place where I express sadness, happiness, love, joy, or confusion. I’m alone. There’s no cool Dan Freeman hanging around talking about Bob Seger’s best album. There are only silent, cold "comments" and "likes." I can honestly say that I love people – I am constantly amazed by them – but I can also, in the same breath, say that I can’t stand the human race. I just want to be left alone, with Instagram. My best friend, my silent friend. It’s dangerous.
We used to call Blackberries (which were the primitive rocks we used to think were cellphones) “Crackberries” – and the name was apt. They were that addictive. The magic boxes we carry around with us these days are even worse. Since I got my first Blackberry in 2003, I have had a device of some form or another in my hand every single day. Since Instagram debuted, I have checked it countless times a day, sometimes possibly 500 times a day (I’d like to get an app that tracks how many times I check it.)
I have logged in and logged out. I have broken up and gotten back together with it. I have used it, worked it, built it up. It’s been one of the most significant relationships in my life. Judge me if you want, but it’s true. I like to be alone with my pictures, listening to music. I like to look at other people’s “lives” without having to engage with them if I don’t want to. I just really like to look. The thing with Instagram is that it lulls me into this false sense that I am participating in the world when actually, I’m not at all. I’m just indulging my own id - a whole new level of isolation. I might not have been able to control what jackass infiltrated my space at Cal Arts in my studio 25 years ago, but I remember a lot of those exchanges, those connections with real-live humans - if they were great, if they were annoying, whatever. I remember them. They made an impact on me, and shaped me a little bit more.
Whereas, I honestly couldn’t tell you whose “feed” I dropped in on ten minutes ago, in the back of a cab on my way to work.
SOME OF MY TEACHERS AT CAL ARTS: