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Catch a moment, immortalize it and repeat it to the obsession. This is how visual artist Varvara Frol resolves her art. Images’ power gives her the spell to immortalize magic moments and let herself be hypnotized (actually, her and us) by the GIF. She talks about fashion, art, design and photography, and she does it from her particular eye, which repeats fascinated that which inspires her, again and again. Thought, short, accurate and mimetic movements are enough for someone who assumes and understands the tech context in which we are living. What do GIFs have that other artistic formats don’t?
In an artistic context bursting by the digital age, you have chosen a logical path. You transform images into GIFs. So, the first question I want to ask is: what does a GIF transmit for you?
The illusion of watching a video, repeated movements over and over again; it’s just hypnotizing to me.
As we know, you started with fashion design and your origins are in Russia. Are your roots a part of your job?
Russia is a multinational country with different cultures and languages. I was born in the Udmurt republic and lived there for twenty years. It's a place with strong pagan beliefs and Kalashnikov manufacturers. I spent all my childhood in the atelier where my mother worked at the time as a fashion designer. I have projects about it, but I think I made my private experiences a part of my job.

Varvara Frol is an artist, a creative director, a costume designer, a visual artist, an illustrator and a filmmaker, isn’t it? How do all these Varvaras coexists?
I prefer to be titled as a visual artist. Depending on the project’s needs I choose one tool or another. It gives me great freedom to mix and use different techniques and work between fashion, art and design.
Nowadays, GIFs are the facet most related to your work, in which you are most recognized. When and why did you decide to explore this field? What are the benefits of GIFs that other artistic creations do not have?
Some years ago I discovered Excel as an artistic tool by myself. I coloured the cells and it reminded me of early computer graphics with tumbler-style GIFs. It was before the Facebook–GIPHY, Instagram–Boomerang era. If we like something, we want to repeat it over and over again. GIF is ‘the magic moment’ that never ends; it's a mix between film and photography, and does a really good job catching one's attention in the Internet era.
These artistic animations are already part of our daily life: Boomerang, Snapchat, Facebook, and basically, all other social media channels. Why do you think they have been so well accepted in our society? Are social media the driving force of GIFs?
Definitely, social media are the driving force of GIFs. I think that the popularization of GIFs came with Facebook and Instagram. The easier a tool, the more popular it becomes. It attracts one’s attention better then pictures. But I think that Tumblr saved GIFs life! This is one of the very few places on the Internet with such a strong and old GIF tradition.

We are used to seeing you working in fashion and photography, obviously because they are two of your passions. Depending on what do you choose and modify the image? Do you often turn to recurring themes, do you prefer working on your own photos and designs through personal inspirations, or do you usually work by commission?
I like to discover different disciplines of design, as well as using multiple tools. Fashion is the most common subject in my projects because of my background, but I always connect it to other genres. A perfect photo to use in a GIF for me has many details: prints on fabrics, textures, windows, logos, lines etc. I used to embroider beads a lot, so GIF making is very similar. I just play like making a patchwork. By working with my own photos I can choose the best one to fit my animation. What I like about commission work is the challenge to show a product or idea in a smart way.
You have exhibited at The Biennale of Milano Art Theatre, at the Pompidou Centre (Paris), at Art Basel (Miami), at the Tabloid Gallery (Tokyo) and at CaixaFòrum (Barcelona), among others. How do you feel exhibiting there? Do you apply your work to other disciplines (such as theatre or performance)?
Yes, I work for theatres and partake in special projects in Poland. As fifty per cent of HIGH Studio, together with Dawid Zalesky (Frol-Zalesky art direction’s duo) we work between art and design. My latest collaboration with Alba1913 Cosmetics is an InstaArt project; I’m an Instagram Artist in Residence, for example.
In summary, your work is to apply technology to art. So, how do you imagine the art of the future? For you, what does an artist need to exist in this context of change?
We live in the era of digital revolution. Internet opened a completely different space for art and design, and it changed our society like nothing else before. It is another wave of social evolution. I think both the Internet and the new digital forms of art will be more and more popular. We can travel with Google maps or build an alternative life by buying clothes and a new hairstyle for our avatars in Second Life, or spend money in apps to make our selfies perfect. Only two things are missing online: touch and smell. And I think that this opens a pretty wide unscented space for artists and their future projects.

Alba Riera

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