Artist Amalia Ulman increased her followers by the thousands when she announced she was moving to Los Angeles. She depicted her new fabulous life in a series of typically sexy, filtered selfies, intermixed with still lifes of flowers and brunch. Then things got dark. She broke up with her boyfriend, got a boob job, and posed with a gun. Then she pulled through, posting inspiring messages and photos of her meditating, as well as being embraced by a mysterious man. “Isn’t it great being taken care of?” she wrote.
It was all a performance. “Everything was scripted,” Ulman explained to The Telegraph. “I spent a month researching the whole thing. There was a beginning, a climax, and an end. I dyed my hair. I changed my wardrobe. I was acting: It wasn’t me.”
The series, called Excellences and Perfections, explored the stereotypes that women take on to portray themselves in social media, and the way we regard ourselves and others in the selfie-soaked digital age. It’s been touted as the first masterpiece of the digital age. Photographs from the series will be shown at the Tate Modern in London, as part of the exhibit Performing for the Camera.
The reaction to Ulman’s performance has been many-sided. Born in Argentina and raised in Spain, the 26-year-old artist studied at Central Saint Martins in London from 2008 to 2011, and colleagues thought she had become just another narcissistic millennial making duck faces for the camera. “Some gallery I was showing with freaked out and was like, ‘You have to stop doing this, because people don’t take you seriously anymore.’ Suddenly I was this dumb b—- because I was showing my ass in pictures,” she told The Telegraph.
“With Excellences and Perfections, people got so mad at me for using fiction,” she said in Interview. “That was the main critique: ‘It wasn’t the truth? How dare you! You lied to people!’ Well, that’s because you should learn that everyone is lying online. I’m not the first one! There are so many girls that go to hotels to take a better selfie, or another expensive place. If they’re trying to be a social climber or whatever, that’s what they do. It’s normal. It’s becoming more and more normal to be conscious of those things.”
(This post first appeared on Good Money)