I’m all jazzed up with inspiration and ideas tonight after viewing Chicana artist Zulma Aguiar’s latest graphic I’ll Judge You.
In my last post on animated gifs I wrote about their ghetto stigma and about artists like Mariana Rojas who bravely work in the medium. With this installment I thought I’d share some tools in how to create your own animated gif reclamations and interventions. Making animated gifs without access to programs like Photoshop and Illustrator can be tricky but there are websites that allow you to add animated objects and text on top of any .jpg formatted image.
First up is Glitterfy. It’s somewhat barebones in its options but is great for something quick and simple. It allows you to add colored text and a top layer of stars, hearts, and other chingas to your image. Below is something I created using a classic image of Dolores Huerta.
The text is of course a reference to the countless myspace glitter graphics sites with images like:
The next site is pikipimp. Compared to Glitterfy, pikipimp has a huge amount of options but is poorly organized. The site allows you to layer both static and animated text and objects onto your images. Understanding its interface and organization can take some time but the wealth of possibilities allowed me to create this ghetto-glam remix of Richard Avedon’s portrait of Cesar Chavez.
The text this time around is an homage to Mickey Avalon lyrics. Images generated through pikipimp come out larger than most sites but the clunky interface means a greater investment of time. Regardless, it’s the site I’ve returned to time and again to get what I want.
So what does it mean when we slather glitter and catch phrases onto our images? Does applying the effects of animated gifs to icons like Chavez and Huerta equalize them with the usual subjects of self, friends, and family? Can we change the meaning of an image by decorating it?
When I first started experimenting with these gif generating websites I began by using the most unexpected and unorthodox image I could think of as a test subject. As a Chicano, the most sacred image in my visual lexicon is the 1970 photograph of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Wilson murdering journalist Ruben Salazar at the The Silver Dollar Cafe during the Chicano Moratorium march. I wanted to create a critical examination of guady gif aesthetics by applying them to the most profound image I could think of. Does heaping on animated graphics recontextualize the photograph or alter its emotional impact? I’ll let you be the judge.
I believe that by using the medium of animated gifs that we are both speaking to and co-opting working class youth culture. Amongst young poor Brown kids there is no language better universally understood than that of the animated gif. They are masters of myspace semiotics. The democratization of internet graphic tools has so far been pretty crass and vulgar but the access to these tools has provided young Latinos to be fluent in a whole new visual language; one that is not even being discussed in art academia.
So how do we continue to elevate the discussion and challenge what currently exists? Again, I defer to recent self-portraits by Mariana Rojas.
Sky is the limit,