Part of the Unstagram series


A collection of video works documenting a manual reset of my Instagram account.

Seldom do we consider how much we’ve given to social media platforms. We do so for numerous reasons—to be seen, to show off, to share something that moves us, to be desired. We share for others and ourselves, but also we share with the makers of the platform, who then share with advertisers, who are essentially buying our attention. These platforms are designed to maximized our engagement and as we engage, they become better at drawing us in. They are anxiety machines. It’s not far fetched to claim that these systems are designed (if not intentionally) to prey upon our anxiety through an endless feedback loop of production seeking satisfaction.

As an act of refusal, I decided to erase myself from Instagram and other platforms. These works are offer the most complete record of the process, or reversing my actions, retracing my steps. Rather than simply deleting and forgetting, I invite you, the viewer to take stock with me, to confront the visceral act of unposting, unliking, unfollowing, unarchiving, until all that is left is a pure, virginal headstone signaling my departure as well as my presence.

If you wish, you can request to follow my account @phillipstearns. Though I won’t accept, your request will persist. Occasionally, I return to check on the account to find a stray follower or that I’m following someone. These occurrences would otherwise go unnoticed. Perhaps they are accounts that were deactivated, resurging to life, or clever individuals who have managed to circumvent Instagram’s privacy features. Whatever they may be, they indicate a simmering broth of algorithmic activity that undergirds our lives on these platforms.

Phillip David Stearns

Born in Austin TX. Studied Audio Engineering and the University of Colorado in Denver and Music Composition at Cal Arts. Living in NYC since 2009. Working as an artist, designer, artistic director, creative technologist, and more.

Has exhibited internationally at TATE Britain, The Photographer's Gallery (London), NYU Art Gallery (Abu Dhabi, UAE), Diagonale Gallery (Montreal), Transfer Gallery (NYC), Fridman Gallery (NYC), The Park Avenue Armory (NYC), and more.

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