Online Influencers: November 2016
Trending hashtags and visual microblogs are valuable indicators of what moves consumers. In tandem with our monthly Pop Culture Round-Ups, we assess key directions emerging from social media, and highlight the influencers driving them.
- Sensory Satisfaction: As we approach the end of an eventful and politically contentious year, it seems people are finding relief in content that is visually pleasing without saying anything at all.
Stimulating for the eyes and oddly satisfying, short videos that focus on sensorial triggers are gaining popularity on Instagram. Profiles like Sand.isfying, which shows kinetic sand being manipulated – as well as the similar Sparkly Goo and Slimecaptain – are entertaining followers in the hundreds of thousands. Canadian painter Annette Labedzki has gained 300,000 followers thanks to her soothing paint-mixing videos.
Paris-based design studio Parallel went to the opposite end of the scale with its animated short, Unsatisfying. The minute-long video shows a string of small grievances, like breaking a chain of falling dominoes or a jam-covered slice of bread landing face down on the floor. The video served as a call for entries from worldwide animators to recreate the moments that drive them mad. Now, the Unsatisfying.tv website houses a growing archive of vignettes that provide inane distraction.
- Oversaturated Beauty: Similarly to the extreme highlighting looks enabled by the mermaid beauty trend last month, beauty pros continue to push their skills while drawing on a variety of cultural phenomena.
The latest in hair colouring goes beyond rainbow hair, taking inspiration from the 90s' psychedelic school stationery icon Lisa Frank – as covered in Teen Vogue and Allure. St. Louis-based hair stylist Caitlin Ford and Tampa-based Blake Reed Evans have experimented with the highly saturated colour designs. Also feeling the pull of 'nowstalgia', X-presion Creativos is using pixel dying techniques to recreate vintage gaming imagery in long, sleek hair.
Meanwhile, LA-based hair stylist Guy Tang is delighting his 1.7 million followers with neon colours that glow under blacklight. At the more playful end of the beauty spectrum, Australian botanical artist Lux Kokedama is wowing Instagram with her living succulent nail art. Finally, Gay Beards is an account from two Portland friends that features the duo in editorial shots with their beards stuffed full of topically themed props.
- Craftivism: Young online artists are driving a golden age of embroidery and textile art. These techniques have largely gone ignored by art institutions and gatekeepers for being too 'domestic', or more bluntly: too female. Now, the use of these 'lesser' crafts adds another level of subversion to craftivists' pieces as they contend with public life.
London-based art student and embroiderer Hannah Hill (@hanecdote) jumped on the Arthur's fist meme wave, creating an elaborate piece that reflects her frustration at embroidery seemingly not being worthy of the art history canon. "This stereotype is clearly outdated, but I find strength in being able to express myself creatively, through a medium with this history," Hill told Vice Media's Creators Project.
In the US, New York-based textile artist Olek and 38 volunteers crocheted a shocking pink pro-Hillary Clinton blanket. Measuring 736 sq ft, the fibre art piece – consisting of 94,880 stitches – was unrolled over a billboard in New Jersey just before the US election. Finally, LA-based artist Brendan Fowler is calling for long-term political reform with his embroidered hoodies that demand change in the American voting system. Following his 2013 sculpture Election Reform (currently on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), Fowler transferred his pleas across to the second-hand hoodies using embroidery and recycled fabrics in a process he'd previously applied to canvases.
The communities of craftivists using embroidery and patch design also indicate opportunities for strong messaging in apparel. Brands moving into this space absolutely have to work with established influencers – Shop Art Theft is closely tracking any appropriation of online artists' work in high street fashion. For more on the impact of craftivism and embroidery on fashion, see Instagangs: DIY Designers, Youth Style Tribes: Custom Couture and our Artisan Spring/Summer 2018 Fashion Forecast.
For more on how online visual culture influences mass communication and the role meme culture plays in the current political atmosphere, see our Pop Culture Round-Up: October 2016.