fundamental mechanics, alexandra crouwers, gif art, gif, medieval, miniature, animation, mobile, emblema

Fundamental Mechanics 2, the first animated instance from the series, using the manhole emoji and a Giphy sticker by Loackme. 2019.

The reason for applying was connected to the Fundamental Mechanics series, a series of miniature animations that were made on my iPhone, using the Instagram Stories feature. Up to my application, I used ‘stickers’ (.gif animations with transparency, resembling cutout stickers) available from the platform in combination with emoji, to make little collage-like works. However, despite the enormous amount of available visuals, I felt that the series would benefit from elements that were connected to my practice and to the project that I was working on at the time: the tapestries of The Three Motions of Loom.

For the stickers, I used tests and unused fragments of animations, ranging from a box opening and closing to unicorns in colour cycles. At first, even though I realised that by uploading these gifs anyone potentially could use them in their Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook, the addition of my own stickers was only meant to benefit the series: I didn’t consider any other public than myself. That changed when I saw the view counts GIPHY keeps track of. The platform collects the view counts of both the account as a whole and a breakdown of the individual uploads. To my astonishment, some stickers were ‘viewed’ hundreds of thousands in just a few weeks.

“A view is counted every time a GIF or sticker has been served through GIPHY’s services or technology. A single view is counted when a GIF is served, regardless of how many times it loops. A GIF view on GIPHY is a sign of relevance, share-ability, and popularity.” (from the Analytics Dashboard FAQs)

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Detail from The Three Motions of Loom. Auxiliary Stop Motion: Brake. 2019.

Faith Holland, Only Minds, gif, gifart, giphy, nft, tezos

Faith Holland’s Only Minds, here on GIPHY, but also here in my NFT collection.

I am certainly not the only artist working in the context of contemporary art that has a GIPHY artist account. Amongst my ‘colleagues’ are Lorna Mills, Faith Holland, Edgar Fabián Frías and Sarah Zucker – all of whom were active on the platform long before I joined, and all of whom I got to know only when the NFT boom hit early 2021.

In Spring 2020, GIPHY was bought by Meta – then still Facebook –, the company that owns Instagram as well. Unhappy with unwillingly taking part in yet another multinational tech operation, and facing the end of the tapestries project which was the initial reason for joining, I decided to deactivate my account.

When I downloaded the data sheet covering August 2019 to May 21, 2020, it turned out I added about 79 stickers to the expanding GIPHY universe, accumulating a total of more than 195,100,000 views. Some were viewed just 2 times – perhaps because they were swiftly deleted after I found errors – but the most popular ones counted 12,496,521 and 31,027,385 respectively. These stickers reach audiences far beyond the scope of the ‘traditional’ visual arts.

Sarah Zucker’s The Oracle of Wifi. Here on GIPHY, and here on her website as part of her Nervous System series.

alexandra crouwers, unicorn rainbow gradient cycle gif, giphy, giphy arts

Unicorn (1), as of February 2024 at 31,059,240 views. Below: the sticker used in one of the Fundamental Mechanics series.

alexandra crouwers, escapism, glow, giphy, instagram stories, internet art, mobile art, digital art, fundamental mechanics

Unicorn (1) and Glow are the two top viewed stickers on my account. Rainbow gradient cycled unicorns are apparently quite popular on the internet. More surprisingly is the high view count of Glow, which is a very simple piece.

In 2023, the definitive sales of GIPHY to Meta was blocked after an appeal by the UK Competition and Markets Authority. The platform was then acquired by Shutterstock, a provider for stock footage and stock photography. In december 2023, I decided to reactivate my account. Since then, Glow has gained an additional 8 million views, while Unicorn (1) only gained about 32,000.

Glow, as of February 2024 at 20,501,344 views. Below: Glow used in one of the Fundamental Mechanics series.

alexandra crouwers, escapism, glow, giphy, instagram stories, internet art, mobile art, digital art, fundamental mechanics

The internet is made by people.