General Howe’s “Disasters of War” gif series

February 11th, 2013 | By | 5 Comments »


General Howe has been putting up street art since at least 2007. His recent work may seem like quite a change of direction, but I don’t think the change is as drastic as it might at first seem, although it is significant. Like Insa, General Howe has begun making animated gifs. In my most recent post on, I pointed out a few artists who I think are using the internet like a street artist or graffiti writer uses the street, and not only do I not think that’s crazy, I think that shift is fantastic. I’m not saying that street artists should stop working on the street, but I am saying that the internet has opened up a lot of new opportunities for artists to interact with the general public (kinda like street art), and it’s exciting to see artists taking advantage of those opportunities. A piece of street art can be seen by a lot of people, but an animated gif can go viral. There are a lot of gif artists out there, but I want to point out General Howe specifically for two reasons: 1. His Disasters of War series has some work that just makes my jaw drop, and 2. He has worked on the street for years and then transitioned to animated gifs.


These pieces are all from General Howe’s Disasters of War series. Goya for the digital generation. For the series, General Howe has appropriated imagery from the G.I. Joe animated television series and modified them into gifs that deal with issues of war and terror. Something about these just stops me in my tracks.


One sidenote: I can’t post all these animations without also mentioning Winter In America, an equally impressive short film by Hank Willis Thomas and Kambui Olujimi that also deals with violence through G.I. Joe figures which happens to be part of a show of Hank Willis Thomas’ work on now at the gallery where I work outside of Philadelphia.

More from General Howe after the jump…tumblr_mgak9gUa5A1qanmclo1_1280





And General Howe noticed something interesting about flickr, a glitch that actually works well in the case of this series. He found that when he uploaded gifs to flickr, all of the resized versions that flickr automatically creates when you upload an image are jpgs. In converting from animated gif to static jpeg, flickr messes up. Rather than (logically) taking one from of the gif and using that as the static version of the gif, it seems to glitch and combine all of the frames of the gif together in interesting ways. Here are two examples of jpgs that flickr made from gifs that are in this post…



Animations and images by General Howe

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  • 2x2x2

    So brilliant.

  • Does this make all internet postings by street artists, street artist ?

  • No, I don’t think they are the same thing, but it’s interesting to see that street artists are moving in this direction, and General Howe isn’t the only one. I like the term viral art for a lot of this sort of work that thinks of the web audience the same way street artists consider the outdoor audience. It’s not a perfect term since it’s a bit of a misuse of the word viral, but certainly no more of a misuse than in the term “viral video.”

  • Idontgeddit

    This doesn’t make any sense – or maybe just needs a more cogent explanation:

    In what way do GIFs treat their online audience in the same way as public artists treat the public audience?

    More to the point, how do you distinguish what you term “viral art” differ from any other web art? Surely this is just saying that all web art (including any and all gifs / memes etc.) is working in the same way as public art.

    Isn’t this just a huge statement with absolutely no relevance? What does it tell us?

  • This is definitely something that needs to be thought out a bit more, by myself but hopefully by others. Getting this sort of feedback is part of why I wrote the post. Thanks.

    I think we can agree that street art is a weird and nebulous art genre. What makes something street art? Individual’s definitions certainly vary, but can we agree that something along the lines of “art installed in a public place without the approval of formal authorities and for the purpose of exposing the general public to art” fits a good chunk of street art? Well, I would argue that the internet is a public space (as has Hillary Clinton –, so I don’t think that’s a particularly crazy idea), and that art posted on a public part of the internet (as in, not behind a paywall and preferably on a social media network of some kind), it then falls into my above general definition/guideline for street art. Gif artists are trying to reach the same people, the Bored at Work Network as Evan Roth and Jonah Peretti have called it when talking about the web, that street artists are trying to reach.
    As you point out, this seems to open up a door much too wide, basically calling everything online street art/viral art. That’s why I think we have to narrow things down a bit. Traditional is, IMO, not viral art. It is online, but it’s meant for a very small eccentric audience and not really meant to be shared, or if it is, only shared in a very tiny circle of people with knowledge of programming and conceptual art and whatnot. So, like much street art, I think viral art should be defined as also having a potential for a more mass appeal among a public without extensive art knowledge. Also, ideally it should have something about it that promotes sharing of the work inherent in it.

    Clearly, this definition needs some work. That’s why I don’t post every cool gif I see on Vandalog. But in the case of General Howe, I think it’s interesting that he went from street art to gif art and, as far as I can tell from brief emails with him, General Howe agrees that the audience for gif art and street art is similar and that the transition was about accessing that audience.

    For more of my thoughts on this and similar issues, check this post –