In cyberspace, no-one can clean your "here!"s

How new graffiti artists are using GIFs to create eternally moving walls.

INSAxSUMO

Charlotte Jansen runs the independent art agency No Way! Under her Dazed Digital blog, she’ll be reporting on extreme, outsider and outlying art wherever she finds it.

We’re living in an era of hyperreality. We no longer have to look inside our dreams – unreality can be found in the quotidian semiotics of capitalist society that surround us. The apperance of a new kind of online art – the ‘GIF-ITI’ coined by artist/designer INSA – is paradigmatic of current cultural conditions beyond visual arts. Our happiness is generated through simulated stimuli of reality; reproductions of something that doesn’t actually exist.  Like fun cats. 

GIF-ITI is street art that paradoxically can never be seen on the street. Graffiti, in its beginnings, shared many of the philosophies of Net Art – as youth-powered sub-cultures, they both circumvents the art industry by being neither tangible to the viewer nor offering works for sale - both existed outside the boundaries of the coventional art world. The symbiotic relationship that has emerged between net and street art seems natural – through the web, street artists such as BLU, LUSH and ‘graffiti vandal’ Katsu have been using the digital sphere to push their work, documenting their localised, often ephemereal and sometimes political work. It’s become one of the only ways for followers to access this highly transient art form.

GIF animated art first began appearing in the 80s and has rapidly evolved: lending itself easily to digital mass media, it’s quick, high impact to the eyes, and technically simplistic – reasons for which it perhaps attracts so many street artists. This kind of art is created to live on the Internet, unlike a lot of the images we assimilate on a daily basis. 

Often improvising on-site, south London-based INSA is using the Internet, like many other artists, to communicate with his fans, but also, to control how is output is handled once it leaves his studio. His intense GIF production process involves painting a building by hand numerous times – the largest to date being 1,000 square foot - for the purpose of a single camera shot, later overlaid to create the final piece: a 600 pixel wide animated GIF file, which will only be viewable online. 

Since his first GIF-ITI experiments in around 2010, INSA has become known in the community for his new loops in locations around the world. Collaborations with other graf artists, including Sumo, Inkie, Revok, Roid and Unga have ensured these GIFs have won attention all over. But the release of the most recent GIF-ITI - a collaboration with Stanley Donwood, covering the LA offices of XL Records – has launched the medium on a new level. Even a weatherman at a major US station was tweeting about it. Other graf artists are starting to tread tentatively in the footsteps of INSA – the graffiti community being notriously territorial - it is also perhaps the start of a wave of reproach against the rebranding of ‘street art’ for mainstream commerce. 

Highlighted by their ironic titles – such as ‘Online Love’ - INSA’s GIF-ITI is form that deliberately parodies a modern axiom: painting an 40 x 60 ft building that become both disposable and eternal.

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