Memorial Day: Remembrances of things past, present, and future

Monique Spier 2016, "Doubles" gif animation
Monique Spier 2016, “Doubles” gif animation

The Memorial Day weekend heralds the start of summer. A quiet moment on a windswept beach where ‘a clear view equals a clear mind’ has changed radically in recent years.

Life begins and ends where the ocean’s tide and sands meet. A stranger on the shore arrives from distant places. Beaches that previously glistened with laughter in the sun have become solemn and tragic: a sad journey’s end for thousands of forgotten migrant families on the run.

Idyllic locations where one might momentarily breathe deep and forget the real world are now faced with a relentless bombardment of social, political and environmental issues. Explores, invaders, refugees, the innocent boys killed at Gaza Beach by war missiles, intruders, and perhaps, even time travelers and aliens from other worlds. All are strangers in search of a new land. New people, like new art, have the power to provoke, agitate, engage and question the status quo.

Digital glitch art has about as much appeal as a loud, buzzing, broken and flickering, fluorescent light. New digital art draws from an old punk aesthetic: ‘three chord art that anyone can play’. Keep it brief; a few seconds at most, simple and fast, annoy and provoke with an uncanny and unique power to engage the viewer. Within a vibration zone of motion-triggered unexpected juxtapositions, digital images are hot-wired, quivering and spatially unsettling with a nonsense/sensibility that evoke the non-commercial, experimentation of No Wave artists associated with that brief scene in downtown New York in the late 70s’/early 80s’.

In my wildest scenarios, I could never imagine the words glitch and beach in the same sentence. While on their vacation this Memorial Day weekend, artists and partners Ryan Seslow and Monique Spier, spontaneously created some new glitch gifs that resonated with me on multiple levels. Their work exists as a refreshing reflection: hinting at the cautionary freedom that permeates the world today.

Ryan Seslow 2016, "Time travelers" gif animation
Ryan Seslow 2016, “Time travelers” gif animation

New media, a combination of visual and audio tools, echo the progressive experimentation of artists like László Moholy-Nagy almost a century ago. In Seslow and Spier’s gifs, there exists a lingering sense of reminiscence that evoke Yves Tanguy’s lonely landscapes of desolate gray sky beaches that transform, transport and confuse the viewer in the same moment. An expectation that maybe something better might happen just beyond the horizon.

In the 1968 movie Planet of the Apes, the last scene and dialog is shot at Point Dume on the Californian coast. The promontory is ‘matte painted out”, replaced with a rusted Statue of Liberty, informing the viewer that this is New York City in the distant (maybe near) future.

“Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was… We finally really did it. You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

Ryan Seslow 2016, "Ghost at the Coast" gif animation
Ryan Seslow 2016, “Ghost at the Coast” gif animation

The ebb and flow of our oceans is less about growth and more about erosion due to radioactive tides, floating trash that pollute pristine coastlines with plastic carcinogens, accidental oil spill sludge, as well as flooding, hurricanes and other natural disasters due to global warming and climate change.

And never forget… the constant reckless beachfront overdevelopment by greedy real estate moguls.

We’ve reached a critical juncture where both our beaches and our politicians are extremely toxic and polluted. Let’s work to protect our beaches so they continue to be places of peace and remain a natural habitat for all living things instead of an arid and lifeless landscape for future generations.

Ryan Seslow
Ryan Seslow 2016, “Time-Travels” iPhone digital photograph.

Photos and gifs by Ryan Seslow and Monique Spier

“Bob-omb,” an all-GIF augmented reality exhibition in NO AD

A screenshot from Bob-omb, featuring stills of art by James Kerr (Scorpion Dagger) and Dave Whyte.
A screenshot from Bob-omb, featuring stills of art by James Kerr (Scorpion Dagger) and Dave Whyte.

Wow. That headline is full of some jargon and gibberish… Sorry. Let me explain…

Today marks the launch of the latest exhibition in NO AD, a new evolution for the smartphone app that simulates a world in which New York City’s subway station advertisements are replaced with public art. NO AD, which I’ve written about before, uses augmented reality to digitally replace the ads on your phone’s screen. Here’s how it works.

NO AD has become a really interesting exhibition space, somewhere between a digital exhibition and a guerrilla street art exhibition. The very platform is an artwork, so NO AD’s art exhibitions exist within another work of art, and the platform gets you thinking as much as the art it displays.

I’m honored that the NO AD creators (between PublicAdCampaign, The Heavy Projects, and The Subway Art Blog under the umbrella of Re+Public) asked me to curate the first exhibition NO AD made up entirely of animated GIF art. That exhibition, titled Bob-omb, launched today and includes artwork from by The Barkers, Caitlin Burns, Dave Whyte, Hrag Vartanian, James Kerr – Scorpion Dagger, Jeremyville, Maori Sakai, Molly Soda, Paolo Čerić aka Patakk, Ryan Seslow, The Current Sea, YoMeryl, and Zack Dougherty.

In the past, the vast majority of content in NO AD has been static images, but Bob-omb takes full advantage of the platform by focusing exclusively on animated pieces, transforming static advertisements into dynamic artworks.

Bob-omb is an effort to weaponize GIF art as a tool for reimaging public space while simultaneously highlighting the variety and depth possible with the medium. The artists range from filmmakers to illustrators to journalists, and their work varies from hyper-short documentary videos to abstract digital illustration.

To view Bob-omb, simply download NO AD for your iPhone or Android device (or update it if you’ve already got the app on your phone), find a New York City subway station, open the app, and start pointing your phone at the ads. Or download/update the app and try the test image below.

I want to give a big thank you to all of the artists in Bob-omb and the team behind NO AD for this opportunity.

test image
Test image: Download NO AD and use this image to see how it works.

Images courtesy of NO AD

From New Yawk City Walls to virtual reality

Concrete to Data

This weekend, a particularly forward-thinking yet historically mindful street and graffiti exhibition opens at Long Island University. CONCRETE To DATA, curated by Ryan Seslow, explores the history of street art and graffiti from golden age of NYC subway graffiti through to the emerging potential for digital public art in forms such as virtual reality environments and animated GIFs.

CONCRETE To DATA includes work by many Vandalog contributors and friends including Caroline Caldwell, Gaia, ekg, and Yoav Litvin. Seslow also included my book Viral Art and our collaborative project Encrypted Fills in the exhibition. On some level, CONCRETE To DATA feels like vindication and the physical manifestation of Viral Art, albeit through the eyes of another curator. Seslow and I both have a deep love for early street art and graffiti, as well as a belief that some contemporary digital art is created and disseminated in that same spirit.

In a fitting coincidence, the exhibition takes place at the Steinberg Museum of Art at Long Island University in Brookville, NY and will run during the 10-year anniversary of Tawkin’ New Yawk City Walls, an exhibition curated by John Fekner that took place in the same space in 2005. Tawkin’ New Yawk City Walls was actually conceptually similar to CONCRETE To DATA, not just another street art exhibition in the same space. Ahead of his time as always, Fekner included digital works in Tawkin’ New Yawk City Walls and arguably even hints at the possibility of viral art in the exhibition’s curatorial essay. A decade later and the world predicted in Tawkin’ New Yawk City Walls has come to fruition, and artists are creating new works for a new world, as seen in CONCRETE To DATA. In this way, Seslow provides an important and expansive update to his friend Fekner’s exhibition.

But CONCRETE to DATA is more than an exhibition to promote digital media as a route for contemporary street art and graffiti. It’s also an exhibition that attempts to capture, again much like Tawkin’ New Yawk City Walls, the most interesting elements of the contemporary streetscape in NYC and place those in a historical context alongside the best of previous generations. There’s work from Adam VOID, Swoon, Gaia, Fekner, Cash4, and many others. So, there are visuals to enjoy too.

Adam VOID's installation at CONCRETE to DATA
Adam VOID’s installation at CONCRETE to DATA

CONCRETE to DATA opens on Friday, February 6th from 6-9pm and runs through March 21st. Learn more here. I’ll be missing the opening because I’ll be at Sam Heimer‘s Why Are You Here?, opening that same night at LMNL Gallery in Philadelphia, but I’m really looking forwarding to checking out CONCRETE to DATA in person soon.

Photos by Ryan Seslow

A new space for digital exhibitions

Ryan Seslow

Today, artist Ryan Seslow and I launched Encrypted Fills, a new digital exhibition space and archive for creations at the intersection of digital art and street art. Essentially, the site is a site to archive artworks being produced specifically for the internet by street artists. Encrypted Fills brings together the best of a usually disparate set of artworks onto one website and into what will become a collection of digital exhibitions. If you’ve read Viral Art, you’ll probably be familiar with a lot of the content on the site, or at least understand my interest in it.

Ryan and I have been watching for years (and Ryan’s been participating as an artist himself) as people in the street art and graffiti world have turned to experimenting with new mediums like GIFs, video art, and related forms of electronic documentation to express their ideas on digital platforms. Sometimes the aesthetics of the work are nearly indistinguishable from static street pieces, and other times these digital works are hardly recognizable as related to street art or graffiti, but we believe that these new works come from the same place. Artists who have been getting up outdoors are now reaching out to a similar digital public, and it’s opened the door for those artists to reach beyond static images.

“We are very excited about this development,” says Ryan, “We want to promote this work and identify it as something particular and distinct from other art being produced in the street art and graffiti communities, and we also want to preserve the best examples of it for posterity, lest in the future we think of these works as standard and forget the artistic leaps that were made in the last few years and those that will be made in the years to come.”

In addition to archiving works already available, we plan to use Encrypted Fills as a platform to exhibit new digital works, specially commissioned for the site. As Encrypted Fills grows and develops, exhibition lengths will vary, but all of the works and exhibitions presented will be archived on the site for future reference.

For Encrypted Fills’ inaugural and eponymous exhibition, we have collected a range of pieces from more than a dozen artists to show the breadth of what street artists are doing when they move into digital art. Exhibited artists include Peter Drew, John Fekner, Olek, Vandalog contributing writer Caroline Caldwell, and more. You can view the inaugural Encrypted Fills exhibition here.

GIF by Ryan Seslow