Artist INSA makes his latest animated gif… from space

UK street artist INSA is known for his animated Gif-iti wall pieces, but he has upped the scale for his latest project: it required a 14,000 square metre canvas and a pair of satellites to create the world’s largest animated gif

UK street artist INSA is known for his animated Gif-iti wall pieces, but he has upped the scale for his latest project: it required a 14,000 square metre canvas and a pair of satellites to create the world’s largest animated gif…

For the third in whisky brand Ballantine’s series of collaborations with creatives, INSA and his team took to Brazil to lay the groundwork for the gif in a vacant parking lot in Rio de Janeiro. (The two previous ‘Stay True’ campaigns have seen musician Black Coffee conduct a human orchestra and skateboarder Kilian Martin perform an opera.)

INSA is known for his wall pieces that, when photographed using a special app, become animated works viewable online and via smartphones. A collection of his work to date is at while the project he completed with artist Stanley Donwood for XL Records’ offices was covered by CR here.

“[The] internet has changed our view on art,” INSA says in the film documenting his latest animated creation. “I wanted to cross both worlds and make work that existed in online space even more than it existed in real space.”

To make each of the four ‘images’ needed to create the final gif for the project, INSA and a team of painters marked out a pattern of twenty hearts using rope and spray cans attached to a trundle wheel, and then covered the area (14,000 square metres) in pink and yellow paint.

“This is way bigger than anything I’ve ever done before!,” INSA told CR. “It poses a whole other level of challenges: to sketch up an image this large, but with the help of a trusty trundle wheel, rope and some mathematical equations, I worked numerous techniques that were new for me for painting on this scale.

“Each heart alone is 24 metres across, and not being able to step back and see the work in progress meant I had to rely quite a lot on my calculations on scraps of papers. There was months of back and forth discussions, location scouting,” he adds. “The design and planning I did on my own, a logistics team were coordinating the satellite and filming, then my assistant along with a team of 20 people were on site to help get it done.”

Astrium, the commercial satellite division of Airbus, provided a pair of ‘Pleiades’ satellites for the project, along with technical calculations to determine orbit and suitable dates for when the painting needed to be undertaken over one continuous period. The satellites captured an ultra high-definition image once a day for four days, with INSA using the images to create the final looping gif, which is shown below.

“Once the work was done, we had to wait a week until the images were sent back to us from space,” INSA explains. “This was a very tense moment because we couldn’t be sure the project had worked until we overlaid all four days’ images together. Once the images were retrieved it was a simple process of overlaying them into a looping gif; for me the actual gif was made in space by the satellite – I just had to compress it fit for web viewing.”

It says something of INSA’s determination to see all this through – not to say Ballantine’s access to paint and satellites – that the end result after all the effort is a single gif file. But what’s interesting is that even in using some highly unusual high-tech equipment, the core of idea is the same as INSA’s other work – the images in the gif below are ‘in camera’ shots of some coloured paint on the ground. The camera just happened to be 431 miles up in the air.

“What I love about producing my gifs is the amount of effort – the scale and man power that has gone into this is huge – but ultimately it’s still just a 600 pixel wide gif to be shared online,” INSA said in the project’s news release. “In terms of scale and for the way this project attempts to illustrate time, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted my art to be.”



Here’s the film Ballantine’s produced of the project:


And a making-of film is below:

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