Paintings you simultaneously install in your house and your digital life
With Everything I Need to be Beautiful, Gretchen presents her second major body of work. While she targeted the uncontrolled power of Big Tech through Google with her search engine manipulating "Vision Boards", she now turns against the advertising-based structures of Facebook and Instagram and allows you to own and control your digital space, treating your Instagram feed the way you would your living room.
Collect, painted Affirmation Ads
Affirmation Ads "installed" in Instagram feeds
Affirmation Ads believes there should be an option between accepting the damage social media causes and opting out of it all together. Just because we don’t want to suffer the well-documented mental and emotional toll of Instagram doesn't mean we should have to miss the photos of our favorite dogs and cousin’s wedding. Collect
Affirmation Ads believes that as the generation that birthed social media we should take responsibility for the impact it is having on the next generation. We believe that owning this responsibility involves understanding how social media works and sharing how it can better work for us.
The Story of Affirmation Ads
Feel Good From Social Media Again
I’ve always loved technology, that’s why I studied it and it’s what led me to work in Silicon Valley. I love its promise as something that can help us achieve our goals and make us closer to those we love. But when I was working at Google a decade ago I became really disillusioned with what the technology was being tailored for, to manipulate our attention, to sell us more stuff.
More recently I started noticing in myself how I didn’t feel good after using Facebook or Instagram. And when last year a whistleblower released The Facebook Papers it made me have to confront the complicit nature of my social media use. It’s one thing to knowingly accept the impact of social media on my own life and health and another to confront how, as a user of Instagram, I am perpetuating and enabling a system that is causing serious damage to young people.
The Facebook Papers, internally leaked documents from inside the company, showed irrefutable evidence that not only is social media negatively impacting the health of young people, but that the company has knowns this and has let it continue, expending our well-being for the benefit of its bottom line.
Parallels are being drawn to the Tobacco industry, even as western society is quick to diminish the importance of mental health over physical health.
A lot of my friends are becoming parents and in setting up social media boundaries for their kids are also asking themselves questions about their relationships with things like Instagram and Facebook.
I created Affirmation Ads because I didn't want our two choices to be to get off of social media altogether or to accept its negative impact on ourselves and others.
20% - 25% of your Instagram feed is composed of advertisements that have been inflicted on you based on your demographics or because of what you said, searched, or clicked on. Every action is logged and analyzed in an attempt to turn almost a quarter of your digital space into an opportunity to sell to you. I believe your Instagram feed should be treated like your living room. It is your space. You should get to define what it looks like and how it makes you feel.
I started to notice and understand what the research is showing, that this much volume of ads interlaced with photos of friends and cute dogs is anxiety-inducing. 25% of my feed drawing my attention to my incorrect posture, my outdated closet, and my aging skin.
Worse still, the same advertisement seemingly follows us around the internet like a recurring nightmare. Instagram can measure when something peaked our attention, caused an emotional reaction, and uses this heightened emotional state to prey on us.
We see the same product appear in banner ads, on Facebook, and in our Instagram feeds. Over and over and over again.
This stalking is enabled by The Facebook Pixel, a piece of code that e-commerce companies place on their sites. While it originates within Facebook and Instagram it is designed to track and follow us across the internet.
With Affirmation Ads, I created a new series of artworks that redirect the Facebook Pixel, related code and tracking technology to take this power from advertisers and big tech companies and place it in your hands.
Affirmation Ads allow you to select a positive artwork and “install” it throughout your digital life, treating your Instagram feed like your living room, a space that is yours to control and enjoy based on who you are and who you want to be, not what someone is trying to sell you.
To date, Affirmation Ads have been viewed by 19,920 times with 43,236 instances of Instagram users receiving the positive message “I already have everything I need to be beautiful” instead of an inflicted advertisement.
These artworks are for people who believe how they feel is more important than whatever product Instagram is trying to sell them. I created Affirmation Ads for people who believe technology should work in service of their goals and dreams, not prey on their insecurities. I made Affirmation Ads for people who believe in taking power into their own hands.
The research on the negative impact of social media has been streaming out for a year now and it seems unlikely that the companies that are profiting from it are going to do anything about it. It seems unlikely that governments or regulations are going to do anything about it in time. Instead of relying on someone else to fix it for us, these artworks allow each of us to do something about it right now. You can do this right now in three ways:
You can install an Affirmation Ad in your own digital life. Do this by going to @gretchenandrew on Instagram, clicking on view shop, selecting a positive affirmation artwork that you put in your cart, and leaving it there.
Send an Affirmation Ad to a friend you want to remind is beautiful. Do this by going to @gretchenandrew on Instagram, and using the arrow symbol to send the at artwork to a friend. If they click on the message you sent it will install in their digital feed
Purchase a physical Affirmation Ad artwork. This is the most generous way to make a change to social media. These limited, painted and physical expressions of the Affirmation Ad idea are for people who love that the impact of the works is unlimited and believe positive social media is worth supporting. Purchasing an Affirmation Ad as a painting is a generous Act. It is yours, but it isn’t just for you. In owning one of these 7 limited expressions you do not just have the work installed in your home and your digital life, you are enabling the empowering the thousands of people who will see and be uplifted by it, the thousands of people who will feel a new sense of control over their digital spaces.
gretchen x ArtpowHer Contemporary brought Affirmation Ads as works on paper to (un)fair Milan and invited visitors to wear the fake nails featured in the artworks.
Affirmation Ads Process & Materials
While Gretchen continues the use of fake flowers, fabrics, and gems in Affirmation Ads, their conceptual presence and native installation within social media feeds led Gretchen to make the works more firmly based in the figurative painting tradition she trained in under Billy Childish. Each Affirmation Ad is an oil painting on linen that is based on something that has been personally advertised and targeted to Gretchen on Instagram with the affirmation “i already have everything i need to be beautiful” collaged in an Instagram product bubble onto the canvas. By converting the advertisement’s content and composition into something hand drawn and impastoed the artist’s skill works in the space of Warhol’s advertising appropriation without getting lost in it.