Ocean, river, lake
revisiting the moment when Frank Ocean made his Instagram public
text, image research, art direction:
Radim Lisa
September 2021

“If you liked 2017, you will love 2018” reads the cap worn by boy in a blue Patagonia hooded jacket. This photo appeared on Frank Ocean’s Tumblr on 2nd January 2018, captioned “new 18-99.“ Some media outlets interpreted this move as a new album announcement.

Frank Ocean’s presence in 2018, the year after he released his long-awaited album Blonde was quite similar as the years before the game changing album. His appearances were rare, often represented via imagery and with a space for interpretation. Without a need of doing interviews, without lots of new music. Only a few messages on his Tumblr where River is used for going into history and Lake for going to present. For the most part, this was the scenario.


river, lake …
it’s strange to think about how old social media are, frankocean.tumblr.com was founded in 2010 (right before My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy came out). Tumblr played a huge role in snowballing the hype for Odd Future and its members.

Ocean’s Tumblr stood out from other artist’s social media profiles as an island of quietness. It was the antithesis of everything going on in mainstream show business, instead of being everywhere Ocean chose to disappear and speak almost only via his online moodboard. Something has changed in November 2018 when he opened his Instagram account @blonded to the public.

Making his Instagram profile public felt almost as an physical act. I imagine 1 000 000 fans sitting in front of door, waiting until they open, or rather dissappear completely. When Ocean finally appeared somewhere, it felt it must be really him. I consider this to be the factor why a simple touch on a screen of social media feels so real and non-digital for us, the fans.


@blonded, 25th November 2018

Every media outlet, from major to indie informed about this simple tap on screen. This tap must have been thought, Frank Ocean must have been sitting somewhere when he told himself Fuck it.


… is now public


The act of making @blonded public felt very exclusive but also confusing. Too many photos, some of them very curated (like the one where Mr. Ocean rests on a pyramid sofa, which appears on Tumblr too). Some random photos from wandering in cities, not different from pictures taken by your friends. The power of the image oscillated this very moment, from thrill to being overwhelmed. Do I need to see all of this?

Frank Ocean’s Tumblr was really a River, with a steady slow flow and random messages once in a long time. Since 2011 I have checked this site at least once in a month. Then after November 2018 I stopped. Instagram is much more zealous, Instagram can’t be a river. But Frank Ocean’s Tumblr was a river that flows into the sea. The sea that is polluted by Instagram.

Frank Ocean is a master of setting his own rules. He changed the music paradigm with both of his albums but also showed one can rule without ubiquity. Opening his IG, with being able to see into history as of March 2017 changed this mood. “I feel like there was dissonance between how I was seen by the audience and where I was actually, so that contributed to the decision to make my Instagram public,“ he said in an interview for GQ in January 2019. It’s significant that the interview was not conducted by a GQ editor who can ask rather unbiased questions but by Vegyn and Emmett Cruddas, Ocean’s friends and collaborators from Blonded Radio. No 10 Things Frank Ocean Can’t Live Without video was included. Just a convo with friends.

One year after the post with 2017/18 cap, Ocean shared on his Instagram a video featuring skater Evan Mock. The video shares the vibe of Channel Orange and Blonde outro tracks. 

As of September 2021 @blonded is filled with 3 posts only, all of them related to Ocean’s new fashion and jewelry brand Homer. The latest post presents collaboration with Prada, huge white bags covering Ocean’s face. We still don’t know much about the man. What we know is that he brings flowers to the studio to create the mood. 

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© mixtape spojka 2019