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Art, Instagram and digital disintegration

Jon Turi, @jonturi
02.12.15
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Traditional photographs inevitably incur some physical wear and tear, while their digital counterparts are seemingly immune to such damage. When repeatedly shared over social channels, though, digital files can suffer a similar fate as they're repeatedly copied and compressed. Artist and photographer Pete Ashton has sped up this gradual disintegration process in his recent project entitled "I am sitting in stagram." He began with a single photo, uploaded it to Instagram, took an unfiltered screenshot and reposted the resulting image, repeating the process 90 times to produce an effect akin to the real-life aging process. That specific count also allowed him to fit a 6fps time-lapse video of the project into the service's 15-second limit to animate the transmutation.

Gallery: I am sitting in stagram | 7 Photos

The core concept of Ashton's work (and its title) was inspired by an audio experiment from 1969 called "I am sitting in a room" by composer Alvin Lucier. That version began as a spoken word recording that was played back and re-recorded through a repeated process. Like Ashton's images, the sound became a haunting departure from the original after multiple iterations. It's not the first time that Lucier's pioneering work inspired a new generation of artists: William Basinski used a similar method to create his 2002 expimental album called "The Disintegration Loop" and YouTube's emergence spawned a video variation in 2010.

The topic of digital image degradation stemming from re-use was even explored earlier this year in an article for The Awl, leading its author to declare the trend of less-than-crisp photos as "shitpics." While that seemingly pejorative term is more about the online community adding some rough edges to an all-too-perfect digital landscape and Ashton's take on the phenomenon is more conceptual, they both seem to find something compelling in all that noise.

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