Mana BSMT presents:


January 21, 2017 – May 31, 2017
Public reception: January 21, 2017, from 6PM – 10PM


Surface is a group exhibition opening in Mana BSMT’s new 3,000 square foot gallery. It will feature work by five Mana BSMT Residents who work primarily as GIF artists: Matthias Brown (Traceloops), Sam Cannon, Julian Glander, Thoka Maer, and Hayden Zezula (Zolloc). Until now, their artwork has been created for and seen on screens, and shared across social platforms. This exhibition is their first exploration into creating work that can only be experienced in a physical space: sculpture, installation, performance, and gaming. By eliminating screens and creating site-specific experiences, this exhibition will illustrate a collective surfacing from the digital to the physical realm.

Join the conversation online using #SurfaceBSMT.

About the Artists

Matthias Brown (Traceloops) is an artist specializing in hand-drawn, black and white, traditional animation. By stripping the process of excess, the remaining animation reflects a very tangible experience that explores the interplay between negative and positive space as well as the portrayal of two and three dimensional movement. Matthias studied Graphic Design at SCAD Atlanta and currently resides in Jersey City, NJ.

Sam Cannon is an artist and director based in NYC. Her personal work focuses on the manipulation of time, space, and the female form. Living somewhere between still photography and video, her images explore the way we interact with never-ending moments in the age of the 15-second clip.

Originally, Julian Glander was a baby. Presently, he is a visual artist working in animated GIFs, comics, video games, interactive toys, short films, and illustrations (of dogs). In the future, Julian plans to become a ghost.

Thoka Maer is an artist who illustrates and creates animated illustrations. Her work runs the gamut from the figurative/narrative to the abstract/surreal, held together by the consistent use of pencil and crayon. She is currently based in New York.

Hayden Zezula (Zolloc) is a 3d animator from Austin TX, currently in NYC. He focuses on memorizing looping video, blending beautiful and creepy to create unsettling imagery.

Essay by JiaJia Fei
Director of Digital at The Jewish Museum

The history of art has long been propelled by disruptions of technology that have informed new aesthetics. From the first photograph taken in 1826 to the first motion-picture film in 1878, it took many iterations, and even generations of innovation and inquiry, for objects of technology to become studied and deliberate until codified as works of art.

In 1987, the world met the GIF. The acronym stands for Graphics Interchange Format. Commonly used to describe low-resolution, looping digital animations, the bitmap file format actually predates the web, turning 30 this year. In 1995 when Netscape Navigator 2.0 began supporting animated GIFs, the file extension quickly became synonymous with web design of the late 1990s, bouncy animals and all. The GIF was in many ways a precursor to online video, as the first of its kind to represent motion and narrative, years before YouTube, Netflix, and the like.  

Decades later, the GIF survives and thrives—giving birth to an entirely new internet visual language, as seen on websites and online communities such as Tumblr and Giphy that have formed around its viral popularity. Contemporary artists too have embraced the medium, while remaining conscious of its native use for personal computing: the GIF only exists in its relationship between people, their devices, and the web.  

The works in this exhibition, although all by GIF artists, overturn the relationship between user and screen, creating site-specific experiences predicated on human interaction. Until now, all work produced by these artists have been created for and seen on screens. Through live performance, activations on social media, interactive games, and installations, Surface disrupts the one-sided delivery of the GIF, creating a multiplicity of experiences when translated into physical space.

But what transforms an object of technology into a work of art? Like photography, video, and the formats that have preceded it, the GIF and its physical translations in this exhibition simply function as a continued framework for questioning some of the deepest concerns of humanity today. The work of Sam Cannon personifies the conspicuous consumption of women’s bodies—resurfacing the problem of the gaze into the age of Instagram—complicated even further when participation activates destruction. Matthias Brown, an animator, examines the mechanics behind the creative process through live painting with a nod to rotoscoping techniques developed more than a century ago. Julian Glander’s interactive game questions if emotion can be programmed: now that we are at the cusp of machine learning, who will be the one to survive—man or emoji? Thoka Maer ventures into 3D abstraction with animations and projections created as sculptural signifiers of the unknown. Hayden Zezula has constructed an immersive space that represents a digital infinity: its shifting animations are a surreal dance of light and space.

In our increasingly virtual reality where technology and identity is performed as a simulation of lived experience, Surface is an invitation for you to perform technology.

 New York, January 2017


Press Release

(1) Sam Cannon, Self Reflection, 2017.
Photo by John Berens
(2) Hayden Zezula, Emit, 2017.
Photo by John Berens
(3) Thoka Maer, Fig.8, 2017.
Photo by John Berens
(4) Julian Glander, Kwurdy, 2017.
Photo by John Berens
(5) Matthias Brown, Falling Faces, 2017.
Photo by John Berens


This exhibition is sponsored by GIPHY Arts.