Name: Natasha Salkeld
Art form: Digital Media
Description of art form: Her work focuses on social media, online culture & the obsessive nature of self-approval for young females
No. of years in the industry: 4
Website: Click here
“HASHTAG GIRLZ INSPO” exists in the form of a virtual reality fitness video and a fitness-themed Instagram account run by Salkeld. @xoxoxogirlz has gained 9845 followers to date.
B: What’s HASHTAG GIRLZ INSPO about?
N: My project is about social influences and showing how social media can affect the way young females present themselves online. I have used social economic trends, such as fitness and this healthy living lifestyle as the base topic for my work. The VR video shows females with no identity, following fitness instructions, with an avatar, sci-fi style form. The morph suits that the females are wearing in the video have the Instagram account name on it, @xoxoxogirlz.
I wanted to create the Instagram account to see whether I could gain an online following from some of the needs and desires of young females. The account has a large following, by ‘cheating’ my way through the system. The images on the account are sourced images, from similar style blogs online to portray this idealised, alter ego image of a healthy lifestyle and body image. The account itself I wouldn’t class as my work, it’s the idea behind it and the process of the audience accessing it.
B: What kickstarted the idea behind it?
N: The project came about from analysing my role online as a female. Since I’m personally involved in social media, I feel like I have the right to critique it. I’m not mocking other people, I’m saying ‘I’m in it too’ and critiquing our role as females, on social media as a whole.
B: Who is it for?
N: My target is young females, between 14 and 24. I think many young females are more susceptible to meticulously care for their identity online from around the time they end secondary school onwards. School and forthcoming education are the times where young female adults develop this understanding of the self, making friends and working out where they stand in social groups. My work looks at how these young females are being influenced and overpowered by the ‘norms’ of social media.
B: What was the outcome of this piece of work?
N: I think what’s been interesting is seeing people’s initial reaction to the Instagram account, asking, ‘How do you actually get that many followers?’ They get excited, wanting to know for their own personal use how I got a large following. I think that’s when they realise they’re also part of this obsessive nature. The project often makes the audience think critically about their role online, this was my main outcome.
B: Why have you chosen VR instead of say, a Fitness DVD?
N: It’s all about being dominated by this headset. I wanted to use the headset to view my work because it creates a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment. Whilst watching the video the user is emerged and surrounded by technology, with a 360-degree surround view, you can’t escape the experience. My use of VR is a stand-alone metaphor for social media in its own right. You make the conscious choice to put the headset on and have your entire view surrounded by what I’ve given you. Whereas with a TV, you could just watch it and walk away, I don’t feel that would make a good enough link between how sucked into social media people can get and how immersed they become.
B: How do you generate new ideas?
N: Good ol’ fashioned brainstorming. I’ll have theories that I’m interested in and I’ll try and think about what they’re saying. The Social Identification Theory by Henri Tajfel is my go-to, it’s all about how you follow your social groups from say, school, and are influenced by them. In this case, it’s what you’re influenced by online. Female artists that help to inspire my work are Erica Scourti, Ann Hirsch and Petra Collins!
B: How do you tackle creative block?
N: I’m one of those people where I’ll get stuck by a big block. It takes me ages to get out because I’m very critical of making sure my work is creating a message. Yet, I have learnt to realise that the best way to develop work is to just keep researching, even if you’re not sure where you’re heading. The Virtual Reality video came about from simply getting friends to listen and perform to YouTube fitness instructions. I played around with where the fitness took place which developed into using green screen and creating a digital performance.
For the final footage, I got people together from AUB Acting and a few friends to take part. The choice for morph suits was to hide the identity. At first, it was going to be a full fitness outfit, I designed a logo and made an outfit but it became too serious. It was good to hide everyone’s face and the rough outline of their body so that I could take away that idea of what people would normally idealise in a fitness video – looking like the people taking part. It allows me to be comical with it, the fitness video is quite silly.
B: Have you been to any inspiring exhibitions lately?
N: “Selfie to Self-expression” at the Saatchi Gallery. It’s closed now but this was very relevant to this project. It was interactive and I’ve always wanted to incorporate that into what I do. It’s related to my Instagram account where the work was the process of people accessing and increasing the following. Selfie to Self-expression had a live feed of selfies in which viewers were invited to take personal selfies and send them on Twitter which would then be posted onto a wall in the gallery.
Being a Female Creative
B: How would you describe the experience of being a female in this industry?
N: Modern art is becoming more about a feminist view, it seems people feel more comfortable to talk about it. It’s good timing for my work because everyone’s talking about it with social media, we need that realisation of how it affects us individually now that we know there are consequences to the excessive use of it.
B: What would be your single piece of advice for other female artists?
N: My single piece of advice to other female artists is: don’t feel afraid to make work that supports females just because it might be critiqued. There’s a difference between insults and constructive criticism, the latter is there to make your work better so hope for it and embrace it. Making work that is ‘feminist’ isn’t there to slate men in any way, it’s there to empower women and being a female just means I can comfortably relate to the issues I’m facing as well as critique them because I am part of them too.
B: What advice would you give to your target audience?
N: Don’t feel like you have to follow these trends online just to fit into the right social group. Don’t live up to someone else’s expectations. It’s absolutely fine to be inspired by others, it can be a really positive thing. You can carry on, just start to realise the effect it can have. Be self-aware. Remember that we’re all different; it’s good to be different.
Natasha’s healthy message behind her work is why I believe she’s championing women. The more time we spend watching other people online, the worse we feel, and there is research to back that up. ‘Economists found that spending just one hour a day on social networks reduces the probability of a child being completely happy with his or her life overall by around 14%’. What we need is work like Natasha’s that subtly asks us to think about what we’re doing and to question it. Natasha is considered in her approach, she knows her audience and she executes it well. She has applied to be an art assistant on a foundation course in the hopes of giving more students confidence in choosing an art degree.
Written by Brittany Sutcliffe.
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