(Instagram)RL is underwhelming

I went to the ‘Winter Lights Festival’ in Canary Wharf with a few friends as we were promised innovative art and, of course - the potential for cool pictures.

Let’s start with what I consider to be the main attraction - number 17.

This was supposed to be an immersive experience. You would walk in an ocean of lights, dancing in sync with ambient music playing all around you. It looked more like this:


And yes, I filtered it (it’s a condition 😂). But the photo does not quite represent the experience. Which was extremely stressful, especially if you are someone who actually wants to appreciate the art; the work and thought, which went into the installment were impecable - over 20 000 individual lights were hung there. And everyone was constantly pulling the vines towards them, yelling over the music and ruining what could have been a mesmerising experience. Alas, everyone was looking to get but one thing out of this - a photo. And not the perfect photo. To any decently aware “photographer” it should have been obvious that with so many people attending the event, the perfect photo was impossible. However, the experience could have been well worth it. If everyone could just shut up, put their phones away and look, listen. People are not so keen on that, I guess.

Up next is number 9, which I was equally looking forward to. It was a very cool, slightly trippy tunel of constantly changing patterns and colours. I stopped to read the sign, explaining the concept. Everyone around me stopped on the sides to take a picture. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was hoping my friend would take a cool picture of me too towards the end of the tunnel. But I quickly realised that was not happening.


Numbers 1, 5, 13, 19, 20 and 21 were equally underwhelming. There was a constant stream of people pushing through, talking over each other, taking pictures or just waiting around and blocking the way. It was hard to move between the instalments and you couldn’t really take your time with them, because the whole atmosphere there exuded nothing but stress and chaos.


The one thing worth seeing was number 10. It consists of a few sculptures made almost entirely of recycled materials, such as electronics, toys, packaging. The creator, Oskar Krajewski, demonstrates his love for the environement through the so called Recyclism.

There was a five (probably less) minute queue to view it. At the door you were given headphones, playing a really cool track explaining how the colony works. The room was small and there weren’t that many people (and the ones there were usually quick to leave). The headphones were very benefitial to getting the most of the experience and the art was really really interesting. You could spend hours trying to recognise all the materials used.

We visited the garden as well, which was lit by different coloured lights. Finally presenting to us the opportunity of a cool picture. Which I took.

This is me, trying to keep a straight face as Justice attempts to take a good shot - by positioning her body in a bit of a surrealist manner. People are walking by, judging us. Probably laughing too. This is the: “I’ll just wait here awkwardly as you pass by” picture. Bum wet, I think to myself - do people realise how fake Instagram is. I don’t take pictures to show people on Instagram how much fun I’m having. I do it because I like pretty pictures. And I like sharing/liking pretty pictures. But for most, it’s not like that. It’s about saying you’ve been to the winter lights, about proving how cool you are, about taking a picture at a trendy place.


I’m not here to preach. I’m not going to measure how fake Instagram is - we should all know that by now. What I’m trying to show with this post (and I guess I’m going to both show it and tell it) is that we should be more respectful toward the art we so eagerly want to capture. Cruising through everything, looking for good picture opportunities, disrespecting the rules (jumping over the boarders at number 9 was common), disrespecting both the art and all the people around you, who are trying to appreciate it - this is not how these festivals/exhibitions are supposed to go. Neither you, nor the people around you are gaining anything from this type of behaviour. Stop pulling the vines, stop shouting - look up, listen, examine, do what the artist hoped you’d do - immerse yourself in the experience. You can’t do that through a screen. Nobody in Instagram would know if you hadn’t taken that picture. But if you hadn’t taken that picture maybe you’d have known something new by the end of the exhibition.


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© Gery Galabova.