I’m sure you’ve seen them on your feed: made-for-Instagram spaces are taking over the social media landscape. These installations seem to be popping up all over the place, from L.A.’s Happy Place to N.Y.C.’s Egg House, and these ‘Instagram Museums’ are the latest craze that’s redefining the selfie standard. I sat down with Chris Bolman of the creative group Nameless Network to discuss their understanding of this viral phenomenon as well as their upcoming interactive pop-up Museum of Pizza.
Ian Kelley: Could you give us a little history about the Nameless Network?
Chris Bolman: Nameless Network is a Brooklyn-based youth media company co-founded in 2015 by three ex-VICE employees—Kareem Rahma, Alex Serio, and Max Nelson—to bring knowledge and discovery to the next generation of learners, dreamers, and late night snackers.
IK: What are some of the challenges your team faces in such a creative industry?
CB: Media itself is an incredibly fast and dynamic space. Digital power players like Facebook and Google have up-ended the economics of traditional news; they end up being gatekeepers or middle-men for a lot of publisher revenue [and attention], and it's just a space in general where you have to be extremely flexible and adaptive. BuzzFeed is selling kitchen products at Walmart, Refinery29 is investing a lot into 29Rooms, and the reason is because traditional publishing is a very hard business to be in for the foreseeable future.
IK: We're seeing a lot more of these interactive pop-up museums lately. What do you think is driving the need for these spaces?
CB: It's the intersection of a few different trends and factors. Amazon is making it very hard for traditional [legacy] retail, so you have a lot of spaces opening up that need to find new models and tenants.
Instagram, as we all know, is a huge driving force in culture. This is a complex dynamic or relationship [culture manifests itself on Instagram; Instagram broadcasts it and ends up reshaping culture], but the reality is: there's a lot more demand for immersive visual experiences you can simultaneously share with your friends—both online and offline. If you look at artists like Yayoi Kusama or creators like Es Devlin who have a lot of cultural momentum right now, it's because of the fact that their work translates so well via photography and video.
Relatedly, I also think in some aspects because of the prevalence of digital and social media, people do value real-world scarcity and unique experiences. So it's simultaneously a reaction to the Internet and powered by the Internet.
IK: Is it hard finding artists with pieces that already fit the theme of the museum? Or do you already have artists in mind?
CB: That's been one of the things we've been most pleased about—our ability to support and work with living artists and make this an artist-driven event. A lot of pop-up museums call themselves "museums," but generally don't feature any art. We wanted to flip the script on that. In addition to curated art, we've also commissioned several artists like Adam Green and Devin Troy Strother to create installations unique to the museum.
IK: Do you have any advice for students interested in creating or curating something like this on their own?
CB: Take risks and go big—but make sure you have the right team to bring it to life. The Museum of Pizza started as a pure concept, and we kind of knew it would work because of how universally loved pizza is, so we were willing to take the risk of putting it out into the world months before the museum was set to open [while some of the pieces weren't fully in place] and build it piece by piece. Our producers [Ally and LeighAnne] are complete heroes, and we couldn't have done this without them, our partners, the art community, the fine folks at Cultural Counsel, and all of the N.Y.C. pizza community. You can accomplish really ambitious things when you build the right team—far more than what you could accomplish when you try to go it alone.
IK: How do you like your pizza?
CB: Plain cheese N.Y. slice straight off the top, although a good Neopolitan or Roman pizza is a work of art in and of itself. Everyone talks about pizza as one monolithic food, but as we learned from Scott Weiner [a pizza historian—yes, that’s a thing] who runs Scott's Pizza Tours), it's really a genre food with a lot of different sub-styles and variety.
IK: Best pizza in Brooklyn?
CB: Tough call. For NY slices we love Williamsburg Pizza and Champion Pizza. I have a real soft spot for Speedy Romeo's. Bravi Raggazi in BedStuy is new but they make really nice pies. The variety is part of what makes it so great—there's really almost no such thing as bad pizza.
The exhibit will be running at the William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn from October 13th through November 18th. For tickets to the Museum of Pizza, visit their website @ museumofpizza.com.
Illustration by Sarah Inman