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Inside Frances Adair Mckenzie's Erotic Glam GIF Book

This is sumptuous GIF art you'll be able to physically get your hands on.

A new age of GIF art might be upon us, ushered in by art book publisher Anteism and the sumptuous, surreal works of Montreal artist, Frances Adair Mckenzie.

To be clear, no one's quite sure what the next step in the evolution of the GIF will be. Many GIF artists are taking to Instagram, and making a living through new online infrastructure like Tumblr's Creatr agency and GIPHY partnerships. But we're a big fan of the old-school-meets-new-school direction the folks at Anteism are going, teaming up with GIF artists to make physical, paper bound, glossy books that contain animated GIFs that work through the magical technology of augmented reality (AR).

"Augmented Reality" is a clunky phrase (if you know a better one, email me), but it's used to make really elegant pieces of art like INSA's GIF-iti app, REIFY's new brand of sound sculptures, and Anteism's first GIF book with Scorpion DaggerDo You Like Relaxing?. They have a handy video explaining how AR works:

Now, Anteism is coming out with a new GIF book collaboration that takes everything we loved about Do You Like Relaxing? and amps it to 11. Their next effort is called Glossed Over and Tucked Up, and highlights McKenzie's fashion photography-influenced characters and settings made with disembodied limbs, fruit, inanimate objects, and a color palette that would make Matisse blush. She and Anteism are currently crowdfunding the book on IndieGogo, where 40 Canadian dollars (about $30 U.S.) will get you 48 pages of augmented reality-animated action.

We spoke to McKenzie about her stylish GIFs, tried to figure out a better way to say "augmented reality," and discussed the process behind Glossed Over and Tucked Up.

The Creators Project: What makes your art right for an AR book?

Frances Adair Mckenzie: I think what makes my work and AR interesting together, is that both converse with tangible elements through digital media. My work focuses on new technologies, but I’m a painter and puppeteer at heart. I enjoy manipulating digital aesthetics through anthropomorphism and painterly sensibilities. 

Often, my work is filled with weird eroticism, it explores the abject and is based on a tension built between unexpected elements. Usually, it’s more present in the gestures of the objects, than in what we typically attribute to them. I enjoy forcing unexpected narratives onto familiar things, so the triggering of still images through the AR really works. It’s intriguing to see the printed video stills and how they initially appear quite innocent, then as the screen unveils their movements, you really understand their intrinsic sensuality. The fact that the viewer/reader is implicated through their device and ultimately stimulates the images, is totally ideal! 

As for the benefits of AR in this context, its that both the book and the device become more than themselves. Through the added layers of device and screen the pages become hybrids, this makes the communication of images into something more complex and problematic. Its the type of terrain that I’m interested in exploring, places where the viewer has unexpected experiences and doesn’t feel at ease. I think it creates more space for curiosity, openness and experimentation.

When did you realize you wanted to make an AR book?

Pretty much as soon the guys at Anteism proposed the project! Then inter-active designer Takeshi Mukai arrived in Montreal to work on it and the project became very real. The new application was being developed, I got to explore Takeshi’s previous experiential projects and the Scorpion dagger AR book was in my hands. I began to really understand the potential of the medium. I’ve been thinking about how the pages should work for about a year but it’s in holding and seeing that you really understand how effective the medium is. That’s when the paths in my brain really began to spark.

Which artists are the biggest influences on this project?

While making work for this project, there are a couple of artists that I continue returning to. Mainly, Mika Rottenberg and Jacolby Satterwhite, both use digital media in very challenging and DIY ways. Throughout this process, I keep thinking about why we’re working with AR? How does it change the camera, the narrative constructs and how the reader moves between frames and pages. I feel like both these artists manipulate the point of view and the sequencing in significant ways, while retaining a defined aesthetic and ideas that are engaging. Plus their work touches me, it feels current and important in the contemporary political climate.

What was challenging about the process?

I believe that as an artist, if you’re using any sort of tool or medium, it should be done for a reason. I feel that analyzing what it does and why, is really important. So I’ve been overwhelmed with a desire to make all new work, this isn’t just an artist book it’s a whole new approach to art making. I ultimately want to re-think every aspect of the book. Which is kinda ridiculous but also totally inspiring.

That’s just the conceptualization phase, then there’s going through old formats and a library of externals trying to unearth long lost files and put together something that’s high resolution enough to print. But if there wasn’t a certain pleasure in that, I would have stuck to painting.

Where do you see the future of augmented reality books going? 

For the purpose of making artist books, it has tons of potential, especially video work for obvious reasons. I’m interested in how the book will then be able to engage the surrounding environment. I also love it for education and storytelling purposes, especially for kids. Not that they don’t have enough screens in their lives. But if it can make flipping pages and reading remain current I’m happy!

A lot of people I've talked to don't like the phrase, "augmented reality" for this kind of work. Do you have any suggestions for another name?

Well I guess the thing to think about is, does another layer of partitioning into our experience of reality, improve or enhance it? As much as I’m intrigued by it as a technology and something pleasurable to experience, I remain trepidatious of the term, it’s a bit too manipulative and sci-fi. It makes me think augmented breasts. Personally, I love real breasts, in all their shapes and forms.

As far as being the giver or suggester of names, that makes me nervous.

See more of Francis Adair McKenzie's work on her website. Get your hands on her GIFs by donating to the IndieGogo here.

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