'Don't make art to fit tech,' says Gif-iti artist turning tweets into art for Pepsi Max Cherry

Pepsi Max Cherry is getting creative in collaboration with "Gif-iti" artist Insa, who has produced an original artwork based on tweets from two consumer brand fans and one celebrity fan - in the shape of musician Charli XCX - that described the taste of the soft drink. Rebecca Coleman spoke to the artist about the partnership, working alongside brands he loves and playing with the lines between physical and digital.

Charli XCX stands next to the artwork inspired by her tweet
Charli XCX stands next to the artwork inspired by her tweet

Can you please explain your work and how you’ve adapted it for this project?

The work that I’m known for is animated murals - "Gif-iti" as I call them. You take a real life experience and turn it into something that solely lives on the internet and now I’ve created this app, which people can look through and it will play the gif in the real world. It’s about coming full circle and seeing things in real time. This is a new idea of doing a triple fix. Ninety-six cameras photographed three murals from every angle, each perspective was painted twenty-four times. It’s a mass amount of work to create this impossible thing. For me it’s creating impossible timelines; creating this interpretation of the cherry taste from 3 tweets.

My two assistants and I produced six paintings a day over two weeks. I like the idea that it takes so long to create something that is so disposable. The gif is so disposable. The young people that are Pepsi’s audience are so used to engaging with things so flippantly and getting instantaneously satisfaction, but knowing that that instant took a whole load of time and effort to make gives that human element within the digital stuff.

It’s an interesting project because there’s already a following for the drink, people are tweeting about it, and that’s what’s informed the work. Then it’s going back out to consumers, so they’re more engaged. The fact that their tweets have informed the creative is really interesting.

Why work with Pepsi Max Cherry? And why do you work with brands at all?

Pepsi approached me with a challenge - they’d had a lot of people tweeting about the new Pepsi Max Cherry flavour and they wanted a visual interpretation. I was excited to take on the challenge. They’ve always been very open to the creative idea, they’ve always been open to me. They were behind the idea so it was a great opportunity to get consumer engagement.

There are patrons and artists that work in different ways, but personally I feel most comfortable working with brands

If it’s not inhibiting on the creative process and you’re able to make the work you want to make, then I think it is like having a patron of the arts. There are patrons and artists that work in different ways, but personally I feel most comfortable working with brands, especially those that give me the freedom to do the work I want to but wouldn’t have the facilities for. The boldness of their flavour and the boldness of my work works really well together. They’ve done a couple of things that are innovative in their videos. It’s a challenge and it’s an easy thing to say yes to.

I wouldn’t work with any brand. It’s brands that approach me with a great idea and an openness to try something exciting. If they’d been restrictive it wouldn’t have excited me. It’s also brands that I engage with anyway.

How has the creative process changed in the digital age?

I find that often people say "we’ve got this technology, now make art out of it". My app evolved so that I could take myself out of the streets and onto devices. Luckily the tech existed to allow me to do that. It wasn’t like "let’s create something that uses that tech". Answer the need, rather than make art fit tech, otherwise you miss the best ideas.

We have to embrace digital and that’s what excites me. We’re so used to using our phones on a daily basis so there’s no reason why art wouldn’t be influenced by that because it influences every part of our lives. It’s that relationship I’m interested in and that is dictating my work at the moment - how we’re living that dual life of online and offline.

This is still very handmade and I think that’s important. There are some amazing digital artists that create amazing things and it is really hard work, but the public don’t necessarily take it all in. They just think it’s all done on computers and there’s no human element, so I think it’s important that in these early stages of giving over completely to computers that we still have this human element with digital. At the moment I’m enjoying treading that line and it seems to strike a chord with people.

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