ROT2016 - It's hip to be square

Review by artist Marcus Brownlow

The ROT exhibition showing at The Light Gallery until 11 June 2016 takes an unusual look at the phenomenon that is Instagram: the Facebook-owned photo-based social network that is either a convenient personal visual diary, or a platform that contributes to the world’s meaningless glut of visual pollution. ROT invites you to be the judge.

Much like Instagram itself, there's no overarching theme in the exhibition. Instead, each artist has chosen to illustrate one aspect of Instagram’s hydra-headed personality such as narcissism (Tash McCammon), technology (Alisha McLauchlan), appropriation (Brendan Hinton), personal sketchbook (Neon Theory and Gavin Blake) or ubiquity (Aaron Blake).

From the common starting point of the original square-format image, the works are presented in unusual and engaging ways, including as a giant wall mural (Ross McNaughton), as digitally-transformed mandalas (Lauren Brauer), as a floor-to-ceiling installation (Aaron Blake) or, in an analogue manifestation of Instagram’s core technical features, an interactive exploration of filters and their effect on a base image (Ben Kerr).

There is a jokey camaraderie among the artists (they work together in the Light Gallery, and even appropriate each other’s work!) but amidst the fun lurks the darker side of social media. This is thoughtfully illustrated by Elysha Glaser’s series that combines words, images and emotions into a powerful meditation on perfection, expectation and disappointment.

In true Instagram fashion, viewers are invited to Like (or “Heart”) their favourite images. But instead of tapping on the glass of your smartphone, you’ll get to stick a red love heart on your object of affection—with over 1,000 Like stickers already adorning the walls!

As an “Analogue Instagram”, ROT is a fun and engaging show. Go with a friend and see how often your Hearts align, or go quietly on your own to contemplate the many faces of Instagram in an analogue world.