Zero Likes, the aesthetics of nothingness in iconic bulimia


Fancy birthday parties, stunning sunsets, early morning creepy faces, beaches, rooftops, cats and food at will…social networks are literally invaded. About 10% of the worldwide photographic heritage, starting with the first famous Niepce shot of 1826, was shot in the last 12 months. One fifth of this 10% was published online. This is a quantity of images that reach dizzying figures and which seems to tend to grow further and tirelessly, post after post, frenzy after frenzy. An overproduction of images often thought to have the main purpose of enriching a profile on Instagram, which more than other social networks point to a high visual impact and a language built from an extreme synthesis of images and texts to share INSTAnts of life. But what happens when shared photos do not get the expected visibility? In what abyss of shame and silence slip the images that don’t attract anyone’s attention or approval? This crude sentiment of online refusal motivated Australian artist and programmer Sam Hains to create Zero Likes, an AI trained to respond only to those images that never received a like or an interaction on Instagram. Not fully satisfied, Hains then trained another AI to answer the images generated by the first. The result is a disturbing patchwork accompanied by automated and didactic subtitles, at the limit of alienating. It is an investigation or, better, perhaps a meditation on the aesthetic of nothing that is repeated with the rhythm of a rite or a new tradition; with the calm and illogical determination that only artificial intelligence can faithfully observe. Benedetta Sabatini