A look into the picture-perfect fake life of Amalia Ulman’s Excellences and Perfections


  • Manuela Salazar




In 2014, the Spanish artist Amalia Ulman gathered inspiration from the ways of aestheticizing everyday life chosen by Instagram users to develop an elaborate performative photographic series that lasted months and existed firstly only on her personal Instagram feed @amaliaulman. In April of that year, she suddenly started posting iPhone photographs about an apparently trendy life she was living in Los Angeles, California. She started reproducing the style of different Instagram personas while incorporating the usual aesthetic choices of the social media. The narrative constructed by each of the 175 pictures accounted for her life as an artsy girl who firstly moves to LA after apparently breaking up with a boyfriend, starting work as an escort, having cosmetic plastic surgery and drug abuse issues, followed by time in rehab, and finally posts about recovery, and healthy and fitness habits. The attention to the details of what she wrote and exhibited was what probably made the almost 90 thousand subscribers she gathered along the 5 months of the performance very surprised when she finally announced it was all part of an art work entitled Excellences and Perfections. This fictional life of Amalia Ulman was thoroughly calculated to appear believable to an audience already accustomed to aesthetics of this social media visual culture by reproducing certain patterns of pictures, captions, use of hashtags and interactions with followers. This paper will analyse the performance via the Instagram archive as well as the recently published book Excellences and Perfections. (2018), discussing the ways that it deals aesthetically with questions of identity, gender, class, sexuality and “lifestyle porn” in a visual network platform. The main question to be discussed is: how did the aesthetic choices of this performance made a fake story so convincing?