Instagram held the promise of a space where artists could connect, be discovered, and level a very uneven playing field. Galleries like Unit London built their reputation on finding artists on Instagram, and have seen the effects of increasing artistic censorship. Director Jonny Burt describes the detriment to galleries seeking out fresh talent on social media
“The concept of an artist forcing themselves to expose their art to a reduced number of ‘members-only’ isn’t much of a long-term solution, nor does it seem very different to Instagram making their work virtually invisible to the universal audiences these artists once had access to,” Burt said. “I believe a radical change to the existing platforms is needed, one that doesn’t sacrifice accessibility or artistic content.” Unit London is currently displaying Sensitive Content, a group exhibition linking social media censorship to the history of artistic censorship.
For many artists, the dream that was Instagram has turned into a nightmare. Unoffending artwork can still be discoverable, while artwork by censored artists is increasingly pushed out of frame. Moving around to other platforms may seem like a choice for these artists, but in doing so are they only capitulating to pressure and sequestering themselves to parts of the internet that will eventually also be targeted? These artists are the next domino to fall in an internet maze that increasingly slut-shames sex workers, creators, and activists, and bars them from revenue and exposure. The objective should not be to “make Instagram Instagram again,” but to remember the dream of democracy we had for the internet and the art world and finally fulfill it.