As art, ‘Rich Kids of Instagram’ works…

Some of the images on Rich Kids of Instagram would make anyone angry – privileged (mostly) white teens draped across the hoods of expensive cars, or flashing wrists laden down with thick cuffs of gold, like some very expensive stocks. But Rich Kids of Instragram works as art because there’s an interesting peek into the absurd, with an abandon that’s almost charming. I said almost.

Because the subjects are kids we won’t see anything remotely subtle or class – it’s all diamond-encrusted crap that’s made solely to be a waste of money. The spectre of consumerism isn’t mitigated or hidden away in some Puritanical view of modesty as one would hope if adults were the ones in the pictures; instead we get teens who ape behavior they see on MTV and in rap videos – a large segment of the white male population in Rich Kids of Instagram will adopt faux hip-hop poses, flashing peace symbols (if not the bird), dangle heavy jewelry, and be flanked by ejaculated bottles of champagne. There’s almost a template for this sort of pic – even less-than-wealthy white males choose this pose – it’s a minor way in which someone who is mired in the establishment can feign some sort of marker of hipness and rebellion.

Often the other pictures are parodies of what cartoon rich people do – women, swathed in furs, laden down with boxy bags from expensive boutiques. There are shots of receipts – an unlike the notorious receipts of non-tipping patrons, these receipts often show extravagant bills – sometimes in the five figures, with eye-popping gratuity attached, giving at least some comfort to a few that when they prowl the nightclubs, these kids are often generous.

There are also a few shots of piles and piles of shoes – a grotesque parody of the mountains of shoes one sees at various Holocaust exhibits; except the shows in Rich Kids are all designer, all meticulously taken care of.

Art is featured, as well – one kid smugly displays a DaVinci outside a bathroom.

A lifestyle of sort, is captured – the kids are either partying or sunbathing. It’s interesting that few of the kids are studying, reading (unless it’s a magazine, and they’re stretched out by a swimming pool)

Food is a noted and common theme among the photographs – often it’s caviar or truffles – in one interesting photograph, a rich kid took a picture from inside his/her private jet: a box of Cap’n Crunch – a somewhat poignant note that makes some of these monsters in the photos human.

There are lots of pictures of private jets. And yachts. And sumptuous houses. Palatial estates. Helicopters wait on driveways like most people have station wagons.

It’s all ridiculous and disgusting. And yet it’s compulsively watchable – there is something almost anthropological about these pictures – it’s like these kids come from a different planet – a planet where there’s no such thing as poverty, racial discrimination, gender prejudice, economic and sociological inequity, financial insecurity, hunger. These kids’ parents have been able to dupe and lull their kids into believing that their world is secure and buffered from inconvenient truths like stagnant wages and the Great Recession.

Of course the pictures are often disturbing. Never mind all the shots of exotic animals being kept as pets, but there is a particularly low-hanging type of gall in this series of pics; but I can’t be angry for long because once the annoyance fades, what is left is a fascination – the same kind of fascination I have whenever I see some sort of freak of nature.

And that’s what Rich Kids of Instagram does – it gives us common folks a look at how the other 1% live (there’s even a pic of a kid on a Segway with a caption that reads “Walking is for the 99%”). It harks back to the pre-revolution days of France, right before Marie Antoinette’s spendy habits got her and her family in trouble with the uprising lower classes. There are even some men who seem to be costumed like foppish dandies, with a distinct lack of self-consciousness at cradling a handbag in the crook of their arm, or wearing more jewelry than their mother.

And finally, there’s a brittle quality to the pictures – the joy is there, but it feels like manufactured joy – the kind done for a public. It’s a showy kind of joy, where one is surrounded by a crowd of friends, but one cannot be sure if these friends are genuine or gold-digging. And maybe that’s the most intriguing aspect of these pictures – the shots of a smiling teen, posing coquettishly for the camera, while a random, shuffling group of equally coltish girls is relegated to the margins.

Rich Kids of Instagram is to this generation what MTV Cribs and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous were to their respective generations. A quick, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpse at the oft-infuriating, sometimes even nauseating world that a privileged few inhabit. When confined to these restrictions, Rich Kids of Instaram definitely serves as art.


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