By Astrid Morkot
Arvida Byström is a revered Swedish artist, using Instagram as a platform for her politically charged digital art. Like many of her contemporaries, she has her feet firmly planted in social media, bringing her own perspective and style to the widening sphere of digital artwork. This type of classical photography that mingles with digital art and high fashion allows us as a viewer to interact with provocative concepts in a new light, creating a new kind of artistic gaze, one which is postmodernist and deconstructive. Byström’s presentation of herself and her art is thus uniquely autonomous; she has full control over the distribution of her images. This allows her a kind of artistic agency that is rarely possible in the world of physical art. With her 230K followers, the reach of her hyper-visual and visceral art is ever-growing and increasingly accessible; subsequently this medium combats the issue of inaccessibility and elitist art plaguing contemporary art spheres.
Her Instagram is a digital playground; a platform where she can relinquish the boundaries of physical art with her overtly sexy, playful aesthetic. Byström has created an active online gallery of photography and digital art as a reaction against the hyper-sexualised objectification of women that often prevails in artistic communities. She explores avenues of everyday femininity that rarely occupy spaces in the world of high fashion, photography and art. Body hair, cellulite, scars and period blood, typically unattractive or secret elements of female bodies take centre-stage. The result of this is a reconstruction of our concept of ‘sexy’. In response to her critics, Byström explains that “Most of my followers think that this is an aesthetic that is fun to play with. A lot of the time, I feel like I do it in a very hyper-sexy way that is barely sexy to a lot of straight men, because I’m too much.”
Byström’s Inflated Fiction exhibition in Fotografiska, Stockholm does just this. In every way, it could be seen as “too much” by the artistic community and critics she targets. Her display is a magnified version of her Instagram account, with dazzling pink installations and intrusive figures of Byström herself. In doing this she redefines the usually separate tropes of ‘photographer’ and ‘model’, layering herself on top of her art. Byström constantly blends images of bodies and fruit in a collision of sensuality and sexuality. Perhaps her most notorious piece is her peach: a photograph of a peach with a pair of underwear on. Byström sews little pairs of underwear for her peaches and cherries, which then act almost ironically as symbols of the image of femininity projected by mainstream media. On her Instagram account, Byström says “I wonder if she is the most famous peach in the world”, alluding to the projected and actual cultural impact of her image on social media, and further to the rise of powerful online art.
Arvida Byström’s art is deconstructive and political; it delves into a multitude of issues on the feminist spectrum and brings these forth onto a public stage in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers every day, something an artist that works only with physical materials could never achieve.