Mesmerizing GIF-ITI Art Springs to Life on Your Phone

INSA, RONE - Melbourne 2013
Image: INSA
INSA and Australian artist RONE created this mural in Melbourne in 2013.

Influential U.K. artist INSA has been using “retro internet technology” to breathe animated life into his graffiti writing since 2010. The art form, which he has dubbed GIF-ITI, involves painstakingly photographing multiple hand-painted layers of each piece of art and overlaying the shots to create fun, often cartoon-like moving pictures.

These animated GIFs – or “slices of infinite un-reality” – were intended to be viewable solely online, playing with the traditional dynamics between art in the physical world and art on the web. Now, though, thanks to INSA’s new GIF-ITI Viewer app, fans on the street can use their iPhones and iPads to instantly transform seemingly static-looking INSA GIF-ITI creations into animated augmented reality loops. INSA calls it “cutting-edge art for the Tumblr generation.”

INSA, DABS, MYLA - Acid Tab
Image: INSA
Painted in downtown Los Angeles in 2015, this mural was a collaboration between INSA and married LA-based Australian duo DABS MYLA.

In January 2015 INSA told Time Out London that the concept of GIF-ITI was born after “thinking a lot about how people were actually seeing my work.” With the realization that most were discovering his art solely online came the decision to “make a web browser the only platform for seeing the final work.”

INSA, UNGA - On the Brain
Image: INSA

“On the Brain” is a fun 2012 piece in Shoreditch, London from INSA and UNGA, who’s a member of Israeli street art collective the Broken Fingaz Crew. Following the GIF’s creation, INSA sunglasses were added to the man’s face and his thoughts were sealed indefinitely with an additional layer of turquoise paint.

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INSA - C'EST LA VIE
Image: INSA
“C’est La Vie,” painted in Paris, France in 2014

INSA’s animated creations were solely web-based until the GIF-ITI Viewer app was released in the fall of 2014. Developed by London-based studio Microdark, the free iTunes app turns INSA’s work into a kind of interactive treasure hunt that allows users to immediately see the pieces as they were intended to be seen.

INSA - The Cycle of Futility
Image: INSA

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The app’s release took place at around the time of the unveiling of this complex piece, titled “The Cycle of Futility.” The mural took INSA two weeks and eight painted layers to complete and bring to life on an East London street.

INSA, Maser - Roskilde Festival 2014
Image: INSA
This piece was created by INSA and Irish artist Maser at the 2014 Roskilde Festival in Denmark.

“Four is pretty much the minimum number of frames to make a basic stripe move smoothly,” INSA explained to Time Out London. However, he added, “Sometimes it’s up to 498 layers to get the effect I want.”

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INSA, Stanley Donwood, XL Recordings - Hollywood Dooom, LA 2012
Image: INSA

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In 2012 XL Recordings hired INSA to create this striking GIF-ITI piece to promote Atoms For Peace’s then soon-to-be-released album Amok. Dubbed “Hollywood Dooom,” the incredible black-and-white creation covered the label’s L.A. office and incorporated linocut graphics from the Stanley Donwood-designed album cover.

INSA - Sydney 2013
Image: INSA
This mural was painted in Sydney, Australia in 2013.

INSA sees his work as reflecting the unavoidable union of daily online and off-line realms. “Every part of our lives merge these two spheres,” he said to Time Out London; “so it’s a natural consequence that art does as well.”

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INSA - London, 2013
Image: INSA
Painted in London in 2013

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Indeed, INSA believes that it is the responsibility of artists to embrace constantly developing and expanding new technologies in an attempt to determine their significance.

INSA, MADSTEEZ - Pow Wow Taiwan, 2014
Image: INSA

This arresting mural in Taipei made animated art history as the planet’s biggest GIF-ITI piece when it was painted in 2014. It was created by INSA and California-based artist MADSTEEZ for POW! WOW! Taiwan, a week-long street art festival.

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INSA - Ballentines, 2015
Image: INSA

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In early 2015, meanwhile, INSA realized his “Space GIF-ITI” dreammercial. The project was sponsored by Scotch whiskey brand Ballantine’s and achieved with the help of Airbus’ commercial satellite team and some 20 assistants. INSA told website Mashable that he was able to “paint something big enough to be seen from space and to animate it.”

INSA - Online Love, Newcastle, 2011
Image: INSA
In 2011 INSA created “Online Love” in Newcastle, U.K.

Incredibly, the GIF-ITI INSA created for Ballantine’s covered more than 619,000 square feet – an area big enough for the piece to be captured by a satellite 431 miles overhead. “It takes the Earth 24 hours to do one revolution – that was the time we had between shots to paint each layer,” INSA revealed of the four-day process.

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INSA, ROID - The Future, London, 2013
Image: INSA
INSA and London artist ROID painted 2013’s “The Future” in England’s capital.

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INSA knows that the world is full of astonishing digital artworks, but as he explained to Time Out, he feels that the “visible physical human effort” in his work is what people admire. It’s this appealing combination of labor-intensiveness and digitization that differentiates his art from others’ and helps it find an audience.

INSA - Vintage Bentley
Image: INSA

This attention-grabbing piece from 2014, for instance, involved tortuously hand-painting – and repainting – a vintage Bentley. It seems that not even cars are excluded from INSA’s layered, animated approach to street art.

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INSA - Loading Part 2, China, 2014
Image: INSA

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Also in 2014, INSA created a sequence of fun GIF-ITI pieces entitled “Loading…” He painted – and later animated – the four playful works in China, Africa and South London, and all are dedicated to buffering and load times. Could they be a metaphor for the future of digital art?

INSA - Make Your Own Way, Miami, 2013
Image: INSA

“Make Your Own Way,” meanwhile, is an eye-catching 30-foot x 20-foot mural painted by INSA in Wynwood, Miami in 2013. The piece was commissioned by Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade and Chinese sneaker firm Li-Ning to celebrate the launch of Li-Ning’s Way of Wade 2.0 signature kicks.

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INSA - Van, London, 2010
Image: INSA
Painted on the side of a van in London in 2010

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Wade saw INSA as the ideal person to paint the mural, describing the artist’s work as “bold and unique.” And INSA was equally happy with the collaboration: “Wade is carving his own path and that resonates with me,” he explained. “I feel like I have lived my life the same way.”

INSA - SUMMER SPECTRUM, London, 2011
Image: INSA

Additional work includes “Summer Spectrum,” a giant mural painted in London in 2011. Using two ladders, INSA spent four days “painting, photographing and re-painting” the three-floor structure, describing the end result as “a slice of tropical heat in rainy London.”

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INSA Heels - EXTRAOLD Gallery, Luxembourg
Image: INSA

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Elsewhere, INSA’s preoccupation with painting high heels saw him team up with London-based shoe designer Ruth Shaw in 2008. The pair turned his signature INSA Heels design into a real-life range of exclusive women’s heels – as worn by the model in this GIF-ITI, photographed at the EXTRAOLD Gallery, Luxembourg. INSA has since expanded his apparel portfolio to include jackets, T-shirts and more.

INSA - Untitled, - Roskilde Festival, Denmark, 2014
Image: INSA
“Untitled,” painted at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark in 2014

As far as the future is concerned, INSA has mentioned going even further down the conceptual augmented-reality wormhole, with London’s Houses of Parliament reportedly in his sights as a potential canvas. “I want to develop new ways for viewers to experience time and space,” he told Time Out; “in and out of the virtual space.”

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