JANUARY 2015: In late 2014, after nearly a year of planning, Ballantine’s – the world’s No.2 Scotch whisky – and globally-renowned ‘GIF-ITI’ artist INSA arrived in central Rio De Janeiro with a team of 20, to undertake a uniquely ambitious art project; to create the world’s largest animated GIF.
The results of this inimitable challenge feature in ‘Ballantine’s Presents INSA’s Space GIF-ITI’: a stunning three minute film which launches globally today.
The giant animated artwork – the most ambitious of its kind ever attempted – was painted on the ground in four stages over four days and measured a total of 57,515m2 (made up of four images measuring 14,379m2 each). Inspired by INSA’s iconic ‘Looking For Love…’ heart design, the huge paintings were each captured via a satellite orbiting 431 miles above the earth, and ultimately transformed by INSA into a moving piece of animated ‘GIF-ITI’.
‘INSA’s Space GIF-ITI’ is the third in a series of collaborations between Ballantine’s and unique talent from around the world who define Ballantine’s mantra of ‘Stay True’ and whose stories are showcased in unique films featuring projects inspired by their personal styles, talents and beliefs. Previous collaborators include leading African DJ and producer, Black Coffee (‘Human Orchestra’) and world champion freestyle skateboarder, Kilian Martin (‘Carmen’).
INSA began his career as a graffiti writer and went on to become known for his unique patterns and motifs, which have since been displayed around the world, both at street level and in high profile exhibitions and media, including within London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and Tate Britain.
Staying True to his genesis as an artist but with a passion for experimentation and innovation, INSA is best known for creating ground-breaking ‘GIF-ITI’: amazing animations of his graffiti designs which culminate in looped GIFs – an innovative and labour-intensive process which requires him to repaint a design by hand many times, with each image changing slightly each time, before combining them to create a final GIF. His unique art has captivated audiences by creating something physical which paradoxically only exists online as a 600 pixel wide image.
How was it done?
The biggest technical challenge of the project was finding a satellite solution to capture a high altitude image, at a super high resolution. The answer came in the form of a collaboration with the commercial satellite division of Airbus, which gave Ballantine’s and INSA access to a pair of ‘Pleiades’ satellites which could be tasked with shooting a 100km square image, anywhere in the world, at a resolution of one pixel per 50cm2.
Location requirements were very specific; the team needed a vacant space of over 14,000m2, located somewhere with minimal risk of cloud cover. After months of searching, INSA finally settled upon Brazil, a country he’d drawn inspiration from for many of his designs, but had never previously worked in. A vacant parking lot in Rio de Janeiro’s “Marina Da Gloria” provided the perfect canvas for the project, with Rio’s climate offering the best chance of success.
On the conception of the project INSA says “The scale of this project is like no other; it’s been a dream of mine for years to create a piece of graffiti that can be seen from space, but working in synchronicity with the earth’s cycle to also create an animation is next level.”
Once the location had been identified, Airbus assisted with technical calculations to determine orbit and suitable dates for the project, establishing when the work needed to be undertaken in a single continuous period. The GIF was created by marking out the design using hundreds of metres of measured rope, a simple trundle wheel with spray cans attached, and a plethora of maths and geometry. The final work was made up of 20 hearts, each measuring 22m high by 24m wide.
INSA was then assisted by a crew of 15 local painters, who used household paint and rollers to lay down the design and template for the first layer. This stage alone took two days under the unrelenting Brazilian sun. With the satellites tasked to capture an image once a day for four days – without the option of rescheduling – the team had just 24 hours, or one revolution of the earth, until the satellite and painting were realigned for the next capture.
From there, INSA worked with the ultra-high definition satellite imagery in his London studio to build the film’s final animated GIF, which features at the end of the film.
INSA comments: “To me the GIF was made by the satellite, all I had to do was receive the images and overlay them, then set them to loop. 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. 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.”
Peter Moore, Ballantine’s Global Brand Director, says of the project: “INSA’s Space GIF-ITI’ is one of the most ambitious projects that Ballantine’s has ever undertaken, and is an inspiring showcase of what it means to ‘Stay True’ to yourself and to your passions. Working in a truly collaborative way with such an inspirational character and artist as INSA has allowed us to create a meaningful moment that we hope will excite and delight viewers around the world.”