Visuals that accompany electronic dance music have always been my favorite part of a rave. The full immersive experience of massive on-stage LED screens and deep bass drops transport me into a wild visual universe that is revolutionizing the traditional concert experience. VJs such as Ghost Dad and Comix come to my mind as creators at the forefront of GIFs used in performance—these are way more than just pretty lights, ya’ll.
Ryan Sciaino, or Ghost Dad, is hands-down my favorite VJ. (I may be biased because his clientele features my favorite DJs: Porter Robinson, Madeon, Kaskade, and Giraffage.) He creates a cinematic story through visuals that pull you in and invoke all of the feelings. I experienced Robinson’s Live Worlds DJ set in 2017 at Wayhome in Oro-Medonte, accompanied by Sciaino, and the visuals left me in absolute tears. Sciaino creates his graphics on a variety of softwares such as Blender and Photoshop with a distinct low poly vintage 3D vibe.
Check out Ghost Dad’s Custom Content Reel here
I have been following Comix on Instagram for as long as I could remember. They are an independent digital design studio based in London specializing in live visuals for main stage DJs. Heavyweights such as Avicii, Alesso, Axwell, Martin Garrix, Sebastian Ingrosso, DJ Snake, Steve Angello, and Swedish House Mafia are their client roster. COMIX produces some of the most polished work in the industry, emulating a high action, big-budget film aesthetic.
Check out COMIX’s Custom Content Reel here
VAPORWAVE + C4D is the ultimate love child of this motion designer’s work. Based in Vancouver, Canada, her work focuses on themes surrounding human emotion, technology and the manipulation of time, space, and form. Primarily working with the rap/hip hop genre, SMECCEA’s past clients are Majid Jordan, Lil Yachty, Metro Boomin and SZA.
Her most recent work for Majid Jordan can be viewed here
Lorna Mills is an established Canadian GIF artist and occasional curator, who makes carefully composited, moving-image collages out of the Internet’s most delightful detritus. Her often vulgar, but always playful style has featured in a variety of galleries and exhibition formats; I always picture her well-known Nuit Blanche installation at OCAD University in 2014, which gave us the large-scale cacophony of Internet porn, cute animal pics, and burning cars that we didn’t know we needed. In a 2015 article on Lorna Mills’ work for Canadian Art, Simon Lewsen asks, “How do you capture the Internet’s vulgar, democratic spirit while adhering to the principles of decorum that remain important to many art institutions?” Mills isn’t really here to entertain the latter, and her work consistently achieves the former—but really, since when have penises not figured prominently in art institutions? Mills is an Old Master, carving with a cut and paste instead of a chisel.
Nicolas Sassoon is a French artist, now based in Vancouver, whose GIFs serve to construct virtual and physical spaces. His Studio Visit projects are personal favourites of mine, existing as extra-large-scale web-based GIF spaces, where paper flutters eternally out of a printer like a flag on a post, a projector casts into thin air, and marijuana plants sit under the glow of heat lamps. He’s a contributing member in the Wallpapers project, through which his GIFs have been shown as a skin for the exterior (and interior) of the Vancouver Art Gallery. One of Sassoon’s collaborators in Wallpapers, Rick Silva, also joined him producing SIGNALS—an immersive, audio-visual experience of digitally manipulated seascapes. The expectation of a GIF as a flat, low-grade, cheap image is entirely subverted by Sassoon’s practice, where instead, the GIF is a fundamentally architectural medium.
Adrienne Crossman turns the GIF into a queer battle cry, injected with hyper-feminine and nostalgic references as a way of turning a critical eye on how “girl power” plays itself out in popular media—Power Puff Girls and My Little Pony, anyone? Their GIFs, which also incorporate glitch as a tool for queering images and spaces (a strategy that reminds me of one of our current finalists, Emily Hamel), brings forward the potential of the medium to act as a site for exercising a queer politics. Crossman’s work is a crucial counterpoint to the easily digestible, de-politicized snippets of pop culture that circulate our feeds. Though Crossman’s current practice covers a wide array of mediums beyond the GIF, and has expanded into some awesome curatorial work, this close investigation of pop culture relics persists.
Philip Intile, or Pi-Slices, is an early-career GIF artist with a following of more than 22,000 people. He posts a new GIF every day on his blog, playing with grids, cubes, and wavelengths to create illusory, entrancing image loops. His work can also be found all over our current website.
Intile is the creator of the GIF Art Collective, a platform where an online community of GIF-makers comes together to communicate, network, and present their work to a larger audience. His ultimate goal is to make GIF art more accessible to the general community of Tumblr. He curates the work submitted to him under a monthly theme—past themes include “psychedelic” to “error”. In response, artists from around the world send him their looped animations. September’s theme is zoom. Submit your zoom-themed GIFs from September 1 to September 30.
Here are a couple of Intile’s favorite GIF artists that submit regularly to the collective.
Erica Anderson is a Belgian-born American that received a BFA in Animation from Savannah Collage of Art and Design. Anderson is, in her words, a freelancer during the day and GIF maker at night. Currently represented by Come Alive Images, she is on a quest to “make fine at that moves.” Anderson’s work is inspired by the music she is listening to at the time she is creating. She first started making GIFs in 2012 as a way to share her scratch-on-film experiments with her friends, then soon began creating them on After Effects.
Brittany Nickels, or Suture Blue, is an artist finishing her BFA at Northern Illinois University. Nickels started creating 2D animations in late 2014 and quickly followed with 3D animations in her practice. She recently began creating rotoscoped GIFs interwoven with glitched videos using circuit bending equipment, as well as other glitch techniques. In the artist’s words, there is “something about the chaos, distortion, and pure impurity of glitch that for now, for me, is unparalleled. These gifs are videos captured by me, generally containing myself, performing simple moments. . . . To make a connection with people and effectively borrow a few seconds from them to feel anything at all is all I make these for.”
Abel M’Vada, or AMV, is a self-taught artist who has amassed a large portfolio of looping animations. Inspired by modest 3D models and graphics from 90s video games, his work is described as having a “spaceman aesthetic” with subdued neon looping GIFs. Looking at his website, we think we can guess his perspective on today’s technological developments in machine learning and AI (he writes, by way of introduction, “Computers make excellent and efficient servants, but I have no wish to serve under them”).
Stromstoff is a GIF and remix artist, whose current work can be found at stromstoff.com, as well as on Tumblr at stromstoff.tumblr.com. He coded his personal website from scratch, in what’s been termed a “Brutalist” web aesthetic; it’s also built to appear differently every time you land on it, introducing randomness into the core design. Stromstoff’s interest in the GIF is synonymous with an interest in the loop—which is honoured by the name of his Tumblr feed and by his website’s unique structure.