Instagram and the Fantasy of Mastery

PgpnXhhhRicky D'Ambrose at The Nation:

Looks aren’t unique to images. There are live performances with looks (immersive theater, with its prodigal vision of classical Hollywood cinema), just as there are paintings (color fields, all-over abstraction, moiré patterns) and photographs (the hot white of the flash bulb, the contrast of Tri-X, the color of Kodachrome) that are said to have a “good look.” The audience, which sees something of its own viewing habits, and its own tastes, confirmed by the image, is in any case continuously flattered: One can watch a movie like Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and very easily single out what its director, David Lowery, calls the “dirty” palette of Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, and feel gratified. What underlies the shift to looks is the belief in neutral, impersonal images: Anything can become a picture, and any picture, overlaid with a look, can be customized, shored up temporarily with a borrowed feeling. And that feeling is confused with evidence of achievement. Thus, all looks take the form of a direct address; each image, no matter how depersonalized and routine, always seems “personalized,” made-to-order, and aimed at gratifying an existing idea of what a ’70s movie or a ’60s canvas or an ’80s photograph is like. Nothing about an image with a look is inexplicit or ambiguous.

more here.