In 2014, Constant Dullaart bought and distributed 2.5 million artificial followers to ‘follow’ a selection of active art-world Instagram accounts for a project commissioned by Jeu de Paume in Paris and Der Hartware MedienKunstVerein (HMKV) Dortmund. With this action, he reproduced a common practice used to boost the popularity of celebrities or political personalities on social media platforms. By equalizing the amount of followers on each account, and inherently removing the issue of quantified popularity from this part of the art scene, Dullaart was called the Lenin of social media; a symbolic act of socialism on social media.
With his action, Dullaart points to the implications of the attention economy, based on audience as the ultimate commodity. The generation of a mass of followers is key to artists creating a brand online, performing a continuous LARP (live-action role play) as part of their work. The way in which audience precedes the work of an artist, creating a place for it in the art world, goes through the same channels of a system which capitalizes on social markers: preferences and likes online become value in terms of legitimacy and market presence.
The printed Instagram profiles are physical realizations of a selection of the fake accounts acquired and used by Dullaart. The artificial profiles are created from ‘scraped images’, without the consent of copyright, the biographies copied and ‘spun’ from existing accounts. The contents are manipulated to induce spelling mistakes so that the original users cannot find their altered profile through Google searches or other means. Most of these bots have 3 to 5 randomly cropped image uploads, follow thousands of accounts and in turn are followed by few to none.
In light of the current debate about hacking and abusing Facebook and Instagram accounts, spreading fake news and manipulating public opinion, Constant Dullaart's 100,000 Followers for Everyone is now more relevant and up-to-date than ever. Foam therefore finds it very important to show this work.
The work can be seen at FOAM until the 10th of June. More info here.
Images: High Retention, Slow Delivery Bots, 2016. Archival inkjet print on Forex, 119,5 x 84 cm. Photo: Gert Jan van Rooij.10 May '18