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Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Censored by Instagram

I wrote about Jo Spence in a fanboy kind of post a few weeks back. I like her work because it's both anti-photographic and photographic.

It's anti-photographic because it's not about great images or great subjects. It's not about decisive moments, it's not going to fit into a 100 Greatest Images of All Time compendium next to a Cartier-Bresson or a Robert Frank. It doesn't look like that.

I love those  'great' images, I love 'iconic' images, I love photographs that look like good photographs, but one of the downfalls of 'great' photographs is the ways of making, seeing, thinking and being that 'greatness' ties into. It's a bit limited ultimately. And a bit boring once you get down to it.

But her work is very photographic in other ways; it's tied in to the history of photographic representation and its downfalls and she identifies as a photographer. One of the big disappointments of 'non-photographic' photography is so very often it position itself in a non-photographic practice is a rather sad attempt to work in a more valuable currency than the photographic one. Photography isn't the smartest tool in the box, nor is it the most lucrative. It's kind of stupid and instinctive and all over the place. Which is also what makes it interesting and attractive.

And photography is where Jo Spence positioned herself, the poor person's Cindy Sherman, the political Cindy Sherman. Or it might be that Cindy Sherman is the rich person's Jo Spence, that makes much more sense.

So Spence worked in these conflicting areas in her lifetime and as a result, never really had the financial success she might have had. But then that's embedded in her work anyway. To sell work at a high level, you really have to want to sell work at a high level. You have to sell your services, you have to sell yourself, you have to close your eyes a bit and think of England while the filthy rich pour their money down on you. That's one version anyway. The irony is that now that she's well dead and well harmless, Spence's artefacts are finding a market with collectors, museums, the very wealthy. It's a curious thing, because a melodramatic, romantic view would say that the very act of buying a Spence work strips it of its value, which is a very vocal value. But then that is what a market is for anyway - to take something and, through the market, strip it of its real worth and resell it to you in a distorted and ultimately worthless form. 

Anyway, I put this image from Spence's Final Project (on the breast cancer that eventually killed her) on Instagram a few weeks ago. It got taken down from both Instagram and Facebook - from which I was banned for a few days.  It's one of a number of images that I've had censored on my Instagram account. It was made invisible - and then I destroyed it some more by doing that to it (see above) - so a double destruction. That's what Instagram does, that's what Facebook does, that's what we do in their name. That's what I just did there.

It's a bit like the art market in that way. Anything that goes on there gets distorted by its way of liking, sharing, seeing and being. You're diminishing your work to algorithms, swipes and taps by being on there. But still we go on there. Still I go on there.  And Twitter, and Facebook, and Blogger, and the rest. It's the modern hypocritical condition

Anyway, it's a way of seeing and a censorship that is changing the way we see images, about how we see life. It's a weird misogynist mix that comes from multiple sources but is also about control of childhood, of body, of dress, of seeing and being.

Among others, I know Alessia Glaviano is going to be having an exhibition on this censorship at some point, and now @jorgcolberg is looking for responses on censored Instagram posts. 

It's a vital question about a Zuckerberg inspired misogyny which is having an immediate and global effect on what we show, where we show it and how we understand images. 

This is what Joerg says...

If your work has been censored on Instagram would you mind dropping me an email (jmcolberg@gmail.com). I want to talk to you! If you know someone whose work has been censored on Instagram would you mind telling them to be in touch (ditto). I want to talk to them!

It matters because it is changing not just the way we see work but the way we talk about work and ultimately the way we live. And it's coming from an identifiable place that we still engage with. We engage with Facebook even though it destroys a sane political life, just as we engage with Amazon even though it doesn't pay taxes, we engage with Airbnb even though it creates a housing crisis and destroys communities. 

And then I'm saying that Facebook, Amazon, Airbnb do that. But they don't. They just enable us to wreak their destruction on their behalf. Mmmmmm?

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