by Pete Ashton

Sitting In Stagram re-appropriates Alvin Lucier’s seminal performative work I Am Sitting In A Room (1969), exploring remix culture and the aesthetics of image copying on Instagram as it was in early 2015.

I Am Sitting In A Room features Lucier recording himself, playing the recording back into the room and re-recording it until it becomes unintelligible.

Since Instagram has no mechanic for reposting (unlike, say, Tumblr), users who want to “regram” an image take a screen capture and post it as a new image. Each reposting introduces generational loss as the image is transcoded from PNG to JPG and optimised by Instagram. While initially irrelevant, the loss adds up and the image degrades. (See The Triumphant Rise Of The Shitpic for more context.)

Decay through user attrition is a rare example of digital sharing having an effect on the file itself. A platform that requires tran- and re-encoding of data introduces imperfections analogous to smudges, scratches and fingerprints on physical media.

This work regrams the same image 90 times until it becomes noise. The 90 images are compiled into a video running at 6 frames per second, fitting the 15-second time limit of Instagram. Finally, the video is uploaded where it auto-plays in the Instagram stream, decaying in front of people’s eyes.

Four videos were made in early 2015. The main video features Alvin Lucier himself. Additionally, his text has been adapted:

“I am logged into an Instagram account, identical to the one you are in now. I am posting a photograph and I am going to screen-shot and repost it again and again until the compression artefacts of the algorithm reinforce themselves so that any semblance of the photo, with perhaps the exception of pattern, is destroyed. What you will see, then, is the algorithm of Instagram articulated by photography. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my photo might have.”

This happened on the Instagram account @sitting_in_stagram. Here’s a video of the work being made.

Things that are (probably) happening:

  • Instagram app renders JPEG on iPhone screen.
  • Screen capture creates PNG from pixel data on screen.
  • App converts PNG into editable format.
  • App saves edited (cropped) image in some format (JPEG?) and sends to Instagram server.
  • Server converts an optimises image into JPEG for transmission across network.
  • App requests data and renders JPEG on iPhone screen.

The Works

The four pieces live on Instagram.

Prior Art I Wasn’t Aware Of At The Time

Putin Every Day

Reregrammer by Patrick Koziol.

There are no original ideas and that is an awesome thing.

Ooh! Coverage!

In the first month at least 950,000 people heard about this project, which is insane. (I can track the times a web page loads my video, so this doesn’t include articles without the video embedded.) After the first few solid articles (in bold), most of them are content farms leaching copy off other content farms, and the whole experience was probably an artwork in and of itself.

Prosthetic Knowledge

PopPhoto This Is What Happens When You Upload the Same Photo to Instagram Hundreds of Times

PetaPixel Experiment Shows What Happens When You Repost a Photo to Instagram 90 Times

Creators Project This Is What Happens When You Repost an Instagram Photo 90 Times

Gizmodo Here’s What Happens When You Repost the Same Photo to Instagram 90 Times

El Ciudadano Esto es lo que pasa si subes una foto a Instagram 90 veces

CNBeta 为节省流量、容量,很多照片社交软件都会对照片进行有损压缩上传处理,再加上JPEG格式不可逆的累积劣化本性,严格来说每一次对照片进行的处理都是一个劣化过程。只是我们平时只做一次上传,所以这种劣化根本察觉不到。 不过质变总有一个量变的过程。

Tecmundo E se… Você repostasse a mesma foto no Instagram inúmeras vezes seguidas? 同一張照片在 Instagram 反覆上下載 90 次後……

China Morning Post 一张照片在Instagram反复上传下载90次之后 Instagram: Así queda una foto que subes 90 veces

Radio Programas del Perú ¿Qué pasa cuando subes una foto 90 veces?

NeoTeo ¿Qué sucede cuando publicas la misma imagen en Instagram 90 veces?

Design Taxi Man Finds Out What Happens When You Repost An Instagram Photo 90 Times

Diario Digital Já experimentou replicar a mesma foto no Instagram 90 vezes?

Popular Mechanics Tumblr What Happens When You Repost The Same Pic To Instagram 90 Times 艾瑞网 一张照片在Instagram反复上传下载90次之后

Look At Me Эксперимент: перепост одной фотографии в Instagram 90 раз Experimento mostra o que acontece quando uma foto é repostada 90 vezes no Instagram

Techweb 一张人脸图片在Instagram上传下载90次之后变成了这样

LOG Instagram’da bir fotoğraf 90 kez paylaşılırsa nasıl görünür?

Engadget Art, Instagram and digital disintegration

Huffington Post Fascinating Instagram Experiment Shows What Happens If You Keep Reposting The Same Photo

Journal Du Geek Cet artiste reposte 90 fois la même photo sur Instagram pour montrer la perte de qualité

Prat!que La preuve qu’une photo postée sur Instagram perd (beaucoup) en qualité

Techtudo Saiba o que acontece quando uma foto ganha até 90 reposts no Instagram

Geeko Il dénonce la qualité des photos sur Instagram en repostant 90 fois le même cliché

Noticiasdot Instagram: ¿Qué pasa cuando subes una foto 90 veces?

Amusement Watch the poetic and creepy transformation of an Instagram pic reposted 90 times

Gawker Watch an Instagram Photo Disintegrate Beautifully Before Your Very Eyes

“Pete Ashton takes the rise of the shitpic to its apocalyptic conclusion”

Meduza Экспериментатор показал потерю качества в Instagram через 90 перепубликаций

HDblog Instagram e la disgregazione digitale delle immagini: l’esperimento

Lifo Τι θα γίνει αν ποστάρεις στο Instagram την ίδια φωτογραφία 90 φορές; Πηγή Bilderverfall bei Instagram: Künstler lässt Fotos digital verrotten

Dijital Hayat Sanat, Instagram ve dijital bozulma…

Das Kraftfuttermischwerk Ein Foto 90 mal auf Instagram laden: I Am Sitting In Stagram

Blog Buzzter “I Am Sitting In Stagram” – Was passiert wenn ein Foto 90 Mal bei Instagram hochgeladen wird

Foto[gen]erell ‘I Am Sitting In Stagram’: Pete Ashton macht Generationsverlust sichtbar Φλώροι Εικαστικοί Τι θα γίνει αν ποστάρεις στο Instagram την ίδια φωτογραφία 90 φορές

HiTek Voilà Ce Qu’il Se Passe Quand Vous Retéléchargez 90 Fois D’affilée Une Photo Sur Instragram

Il Etait Une Pub La détérioration d’une photo après plusieurs publications sur Instagram

TV-net Как Instagram портит фотографии

Plagiarism Today Attribution, Coincidence and Memory in the Internet Age

The Social Media Buzz This Guy Reposts the Same Photo to Instagram 90 Times and the Results are Amazing!

Culture Designers Here’s What Happens To Your Photos On Instagram

El Comercio Instagram: ¿Cuánto se degrada una foto cada vez que la subes?

abruzzo24ore Come Instagram, WhatsApp e Facebook Rovinano per Sempre le Vostre Foto

Itchban Why You Should Sharpen Your Instagrams

Paste Magazine See the Quality Breakdown of a Re-Reposted Instagram Image

Stadt Magazin Künstler Pete Ashton lässt Fotos auf Instagram altern