An artist book by Brandon Bandy
Essays by Brandon Bandy and Marina May
The Seven Reasons We're Obsessed With The New Juicy Couture
Last year I followed Juicy Couture on Instagram, their new campaign seemed particularly fresh, sampling all of the aesthetics I’d noticed seeping into popular culture. I scroll through Juicy’s account while outlining an artist talk, theorizing about their new creative direction. One post catches my attention, an image posted on October 21, 2017 depicts three teenage girls in 2000’s inspired track suits, eating at In-N-Out Burger. The image appears to be a relic of the past, but I know that it’s new. This photograph encapsulates everything I have been thinking about, LA is in, the 2000’s are in, fashion and aesthetics as a whole are becoming increasingly informed by the amalgamation of subcultural identities and cherrypicked pieces of the past 5 decades. Months later I discover the photograph was made by Southern California native Krissy Saleh. One day I watched Krissy’s Instagram story, it shows a screenshot of a Google search of “the 2000’s.” The image accompanying a description of the decade in Google’s “Knowledge Graph,” is one of her Juicy / In-N-Out images. This is full circle, nostalgic aesthetic reproduction so convincing, it replaces the history it is imitating. This constant sampling of subcultures and aesthetics is what I refer to as “the fluidity of the Instagram Girl” which results in an array of performative personas. While gender, particularly femininity is already predicated on performance (especially today), this exceeds typical gender roles. The fluidity of the Instagram Girl is nothing new but it feels uncommonly contemporary, maybe that is the result of these personas being archived. We can look at them in a grid, one next to the other.
A biker girl one day, a cowgirl the next.
Essay by Marina May
As I broke from my Instagram induced K-hole, I was acutely aware of the assault that had just occurred. In searching for one image—the image upon which this publication is predicated—I was instantaneously inundated with a superfluity of photographs. Each was distinct in that the subjects changed, but eerily similar in replicating a familiar theme. Young, predominately white women eating a burger, in a jean jacket, at a diner. Trapped in a feedback loop, I was consistently consuming recycled imagery culled from archetypes, that have been digitized, torrented, and manipulated within our cultural nexus.
Bandy has tapped into the pipeline of our uploaded collective consciousness. Through juxtaposition and obfuscation, he presents an amalgamation of cultural signifiers which aim to document, without value-judgement, the “singular aesthetic” of Internet Era image permutation. The aesthetic itself is difficult to define, partially due to its incoherence. You know it when you see it, and it is this publication.
Constructed of disparate parts, and taking queues from a myriad of sources, this aesthetic is rooted in a deep sense of nostalgia and utterly vacuous, yet undeniably and formulaically seductive. It preys upon our need to reconcile our sense of self, and our need to return to what is comfortable. The most devastating and lucrative sensation.
Bandy’s most explicit investigation into this phenomenon can be found in one particular spread. Laid on a white background, a tessellated pattern of two plump red cherries, reverberate next to Sabrina and Celeste in the midst of a heated argument. Celeste points to her chest, one hand on her hip, vehemently insisting that she has always liked Slayer. Sabrina doesn’t agree and thinks Celeste is being fake, and has probably never listened to Slayer. Their lashes flutter, eyebrows arch. The cherries shake. The spread evokes a luscious sense of youth, but caught within its matrix is the struggle for authenticity. The image is loaded, a potent symbol for the dichotomy of self, underscored by longing for genuine representation. The curation of style is ultimately tempered by the inescapable male gaze through which these young female characters are presented. Their quest for autonomous self expression is consistently mitigated by objectification, an omnipresent and overbearing force. They are nothing but two ripe cherries with shiny skins. In one, crisply printed image, Bandy captures the internal and external conflicts, gender politics, and aesthetic ideals of millions of “Instagram girls.” In many ways, this work encapsulates the consumption and reproduction of imagery by young women. Users rely upon encoded cultural markers to form the basis of their identity through the sets and wardrobes used to subconsciously (or consciously) reconcile multiple facets of a personality into one “unique” Internet persona. Drawing inspiration from the same platform which provides a readily available stream of references, then sutured together, the editing eventually churns out facsimiles filtered by type.
This directly recalls Cindy Sherman’s artistic practice. Beginning in the 1970s, her photographs centered around the forced salience of feminine representation, and are made increasingly relevant when thinking about the “Instagram Girl”. While the reproduction of imagery and aesthetics is cyclical, the compulsory agility of feminine performance remains fixed. In the same way that Sherman “played dress up” to explore concepts of female representation, tropes and stereotypes through her photographs, “Instagram Girls” also engage in performative identities. They move fluidly through a litany of female archetypes, sometimes multiple, within a single week.This act forms the basis of this expertly branded, and at times confusing aesthetic.
The transmission and permeance of the archetypes developed, rebranded, and reframed again on Instagram perfectly encapsulates the trafficking of information, commodities, and values through society. In a test situation, the images are the protein markers moving slowly through electrophoresis, until they settle in their respective channels with easily reproducible results, giving us an indication of where we’ve been and where we’re headed.
Curation of who we are online is merely a point of access for the way in which we consume media as a whole. The zeitgeist proves inexhaustible. Bandy moves beyond the constraint of the “Instagram Girl” or her associated aesthetic cannon, to a broader investigation into the cyclic nature of imagery. His process of collecting and altering material directly reflects the cultural echo chamber that is media, and implicates the viewer in the voracious consumption of people, trends, and ideas. Bandy chooses to reproduce the conditions of media, by presenting the viewer with a selection of the most recognizable, desirable, and grotesque cultural commodities. Neatly packaged.
He incorporates the ideas of fallacy and accuracy through his inclusion of clickbait headlines, “Fox News (Shocking Footage),” rendered impotent by virtue of the medium. We cannot click the link and we will never see the incident caught on a mobile device of seventeen people dangling from the safety harnesses of a malfunctioning rollercoaster. He calls into question the veracity of the information we consume, and by extension the authenticity of every other image in the publication. In removing the headline from the context of the Facebook or news sites, which are hyper-saturated with information, the single body of text on a blank page becomes digestible and immediately shameful. He forces us to reckon with the absurdity of the claim and directly confront our voyeuristic fascination with death, destruction and chaos.
Rather than place a value or overlay any cogent commentary on the subject matter, Bandy manipulates the images to remove subjectivity and increase the degree of separation. In doing so, he strips the simulacrums of his influence. What is left is just an image, so that the focus remains solely on the artifice of the cultural signifiers. The subjectivity of the work is akin to journalism. There is bias in the choice of source material itself, but it is presented largely without an overriding narrative. Thus allowing the viewer to construct their own assumptions and project their own experiences into each layout, forcing them to question their role in the process of commodification, from the tabloids, to "Instagram Girls," to Juicy, to LaCroix.