The presentation “Instagram and Humor: A Lecture by Los Angeles Art Critic Alicia Eler” began with Eler asking the unsuspecting audience a series of true or false questions.
“Instagram is just as important as keeping up with contemporary art, true or false?” Eler asked. “Serious shit! I post photos of dog poop signs on my Instagram, true or false?”
The Speakers Board and the Time Arts Club hosted the talk on April 23 at 7 p.m. Befitting the tone of the talk, the Time Arts Club provided a free nacho bar for munching during the presentation.
Eler said in her introduction that she is writing about a lot of stuff people won’t write about or won’t take seriously. The presentation began with the warning it would be an informal talk.
Eler is not what one would expect from an art critic from Los Angeles. No tan, blonde hair or three-inch heels. Instead, she looked like she had just walked in from the streets of Portland and had a lovely personality to match the rainy weather of the evening.
“I’ve been having such a nice time in Portland,” Eler said prior to the presentation. “Everyone is so friendly and accommodating.”
“These accounts all use different conceptional approaches, but all use Instagram as a platform,” Eler said. “Quick visual jokes and quips.”
Eler said that Instagram is a locus for sharing art and producing Internet pop art. This has a Warholian underpinning.
“Instahumor is a one-liner joke turned meme,” Eler said. “Warholian Instahumor is 15 minutes of fame through 15 seconds of daily humor.”
She followed this up with a Warhol quote: “Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?”
Eler moved to Los Angeles about a year ago and, shortly thereafter, became addicted to her phone. She became interested in the ways people make jokes on their phones.
At the time, Eler was attending a lot of stand-up comedy, which is all about timing and delivery of humor. These aspects are not relevant on Instagram unless the joke is a news item.
“What works on Instagram has everything to do with capturing attention,” Eler said.
This brings up the idea of taking what already exists and re-appropriating it. Users can take any image and put it into a meme generator and add text.
“Does originality matter, or is it whoever gets the most likes win?” Eler said.
A common theme running through almost all the Instagram humor accounts is pizza and Seinfeld. For Seinfeld, people take a screenshot and write in new dialogue, re-grounding the joke.
Pizza images are just popular all around.
Eler said she believes this may relate to stoners getting high, passing out and eating more pizza.
During the Q&A portion of the lecture, Eler was asked what type of things she posts on her Instagram.
“Dog shit images,” Eler said.
Someone asked how the sense of humor you find on Instagram differs from other sites such as Tumblr and Imgur. Eler said she sees a lot of crossovers between the three.
Eler said on Tumblr she sees more personal space, dialogue and connectedness. On Instagram you just choose who you follow or don’t follow.
“The rate of speed for consumption on Instagram is exponential,” Eler said. “Don’t take these platforms as the indication of death or beginning of something.”
Eler has been published in more than 25 magazines around the world. Much of her work focuses on selfies, comedy and social media. Eler’s talk was adapted from an essay she wrote for Via Magazine.