Essays

Museums Are for Lovers (of Social Media)

An image from Diana Thater's installation at LACMA (photo by Sadjeans' Flickrstream and used with permission)
An image from Diana Thater’s installation at LACMA (photo by Sadjeans’ Flickrstream and used with permission)

LOS ANGELES — You enter the Diana Thater installation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and start to read the introductory wall text.

Man: Excuse me — can you just step back a little bit? As you can see, I need to take a selfie to post on Instagram so that my 478 followers can see that I left my house and am doing something artsy not just staring at my phone at home.

You comply, giving him some personal space as he tries out various facial expressions, and now that you can’t read the wall text, turn toward the first installation, some projected video on a wall. Shadows of people interrupt the projections, which perhaps they’re supposed to (?). Paired with each shadow is another shadow, pointing a phone at them, small glowing screens hovering, distracting from the images on the wall. The images show —

Young Woman: Oh, hang on, I just need to take this one video of my friends to add to “My Story” on Snapchat, after the one of me showing off my new lipstick and the one of my delish eggs benedict and latte with a heart in the foam. I’m like so well-rounded.

You back up and pivot, going into the next room, flushed with a warm red light from other projections or lamps (unclear) where you weave through an obstacle course of people standing still taking selfies.

People: This red light looks pretty awesome. It’s gonna make a great profile pic.

Inside the Diana Thater exhibition at LACMA (photo courtesy Katherine Martinez's Flickrstream and used with permission)
Inside the Diana Thater exhibition at LACMA (photo courtesy Katherine Martinez’s Flickrstream and used with permission)

Young Man: It’s gonna be way better than Shauna’s profile pic where she’s on that stupid beach in Hawaii. Lame Shauna, can’t believe she went to Hawaii with Tairone and those other randos and didn’t invite me. Fuck her. No, whatever, I’m over it.

In the next room, you try to find a path that doesn’t cut through people posing in the light of a patterned projection (of leaves, landscapes?) and their friends, recording them with their phone. It’s impossible. You stay near the doorway and try to get a sense of what you’re looking at. Yes, leaves, landscapes. Several toddlers run around touching the walls, several pairs of parents squat down directing them.

Dad: “Henry! Look over here! Look at daddy! Smile! Happy face! This photo will totally show my friends that just because I have a child with whom I have repetitive conversations with about koalas and whether they use a potty 700 times a day doesn’t mean I’ve totally lost all coolness/my brain. We’re at the frickin’ art museum. Suck it!

The next room and the next were more of the same: video projections hosting the silhouettes of people large and small, posing, posing, recording, posting.

You: If you can’t beat em, join em. Hold the camera 6 inches above your face to eliminate double chin and take about 4 shots. Mmm — that last smile looks kinda demonic. One more time. Ok — that looks good. Post away. Hey! Someone already liked it! They comment: “How was the show?” You reply: “No idea.” 

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