Explosives blow up skies the world over. From our smartphone-enhanced filter bubbles, we learn to consume these explosive images on social sites like Instagram, where the Insta-aesthetics of war know no global boundaries. Instagram offers a space for mediating the chemical explosions, corporeal and ideological worlds, blending them into a scrolling stream on smartphones. Fireworks from America’s 4th of July meshed with images of young Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers flashing a weaponized lifestyle brand create an electric current, a ripple in the system, a convergence of images of fireworks and individual “freedom” — a visual affirmation of nations, an indulgence in the insta-aesthetics of war.
On the 4th of July, I found myself on a beach waiting for the black sky to get lit up. Not 20 feet away, a group of teenage girls were glued to their smartphones, pausing only to take group selfies before again quickly busying their fingers, rapidly firing those images to Instagram. Their fanatic, fast-moving taps on glass screens were only quelled by the eruption of fireworks in the sky — pre-timed bombastic colorful explosions, a reminder of America’s ability to set off explosions whenever, wherever. As the fireworks neared their end, the teenage girls’ fingers sped up. More selfies erupted into Instagram feeds. Images fired off as explosions in the sky faded.
Yet through the scrollable global Instagram aesthetic, these square images blend into one long stream, removing them from their original contexts — whether they were shot in the Gaza Strip, a beach in the suburbs of Chicago, or an airport somewhere in the world.