top ten by Sam Cannon

Sam Cannon’s most memorable rabbit holes

reading time 6 minutes

Artist Sam Cannon has been blowing up exponentially over the past few years. She helped make gifs (or as she calls them, very short films) a legitimate art form, and has since expanded her practice into sculpture, photography, digital art, attracting a laundry list of high-powered clients on the side. Cannon is also a connoisseur of internet culture, high-, middle- and low-brow. Here she recommends 10 online rabbit holes — from internet artists to celebrity Instagrams to weird art tools — that she went down in the past and found particularly worthwhile.

Rafael Rozenzall’s Websites
Rafael Rozenzall treats his websites like canvases. Each of them is incredibly smart and beautiful in its own way, and so satisfying to explore and click through. He was the first artist I heard of that actually sold his websites. This was inspiring to me as a digital artist sharing things on the internet, wondering whether they were actually worth anything. I love surfing his archives. My personal favorites are stagnationmeansdecline.com and Trashloop.com. I could do this all day.

Yung Jake’s e.m-bed.de/d/
This music video comes as part of an amazing website that takes control of your screen with a flood of pop-up windows. I think I like it because the whole process is kind of scary. I understand that they’re just pop-up windows, but the fact that all this stuff is happening on my computer and I have no control over it is kind of terrifying. I saw this in 2013 and I’d never seen anything like it before. It definitely changed how I perceived art on the internet.

Pure Spirit Club
Like e.m-bed.de/d/, this prompts an explosion of pop-up windows, but these are supposedly for relaxing and meditating. To calming music, a bunch of corny, old school gifs pop up and tell you to “please make sure you’re sitting still,” and breathe deeply, and then a dove flies by. I think it’s so funny because it’s supposed to be relaxing, but at the end the music breaks into this really intense techno and it’s not relaxing at all. I’m not sure it’s a joke, there’s something really earnest about it, but it’s still hilarious.

Cool 3D World
These 3d animation videos are just completely insane. That’s kind of the idea. Their video, A Life Well Lived, is one of my favorite things on the internet. This is what I wish The Sims had been like when I was growing up. Everything is totally unhinged, but the music is so serious and sweet. I came across this five months ago and haven’t been able to forget it.

2be
2be is an amazing collage tool, a great place to remix the internet. While lot of artists are getting very good at creating online experiences, learning to code, this is a democratic space where anyone can create something amazing and unique . It’s a blank canvas where you can paste gifs, youtube videos, and photos, and it has some keying and cutting tools. Every choice you make is permanent; you can’t undo it. When you’re done creating work, it’s really fun to go through the gallery and see what other people are doing. Some things are super-funny, others are just incredibly beautiful. I love that when you’re previewing them, you can’t see if they’re animated at all, and so when you click them they come to life in this really surprising way.

Tokyo Light Odyssey
In this amazing video, you can look around 360 degrees as you fly through space, passing inhabited environments that are rendered in incredible detail. There are people inside them, lights are flickering in a 7/11. The whole thing really warps your sense of scale. You quickly become comfortable in the space, and it keeps getting crazier. Towards the end, you start moving through the inhabited environments, and you’re no longer in space at all. I’m just completely in awe of this piece.

Gustavo Torres
These beautiful “retro-future animations” are sci-fi in a 1980s kind of way. Torres’ work is super vapor-wave, super-cyber-wave, super cyberpunk — quintessential internet art. He maintains a perfect balance between super-playful and extremely aesthetic. He mastered something I spend a lot of time on in my own work, finding the perfect loop and sense of timing. I like this one particularly.

Milosz “Sholim” Rajkovic
Sholem creates these layered animations using vintage footage and then stacks them in a way that creates this really amazing dimensionality. I found his work on Tumblr first. Tumblr was the start of my love for finding cool and interesting art on the internet. It was an interesting place to do that because you couldn’t necessarily see where a piece came from. That contributed to a real sense of being on a treasure hunt. I found some of my most favorite things on here, including this.

Cindy Sherman
I met Cindy Sherman‘s personal trainer at an about event 5 months ago. I told him I was a photographer, and he was like, “oh cool, one of my clients is a photographer. Have you ever heard of her? Her name is Cindy Sherman.” I thought he might mean another Cindy Sherman. But no, he trains the Cindy Sherman. He said he was friends with her on Instagram. He showed me her account, and it was undermisterfriedas_mom, her former pseudonym, and had like 200-something followers and it wasn’t private. I was so excited. I was in on this very special thing for a moment. And like 2 months later, Jerry Saltz posted something, and then she changed her handle, and overnight she had like 100,000 followers. I love her account. She gets a lot of negativity on it, people saying that what she’s doing now isn’t real art, and that’s part of what I like about it. Any artist who shares work on the internet has had those confrontations and had to defend what they’re doing. It makes you feel a lot better to see Cindy Sherman making that same argument.

Sad Salvia’s Instagram
Salvia is a drag and makeup artist and incredible in every way. I could spend all day looking at her account. Her picture makes me think about image manipulation, which she does but very subtly. It also makes me think of make-up as a way of avoiding facial recognition. She’s ahead of the curve on almost everything. Like the wavy eyebrow trend that’s happening right now: Salvia was definitely on that before anyone else.

Garden of Earthly Delights by Jheronimus Bosch —an online interactive adventure
I love exploring the details of this painting and marveling at the art reproduction. A lot of institutions are offering incredibly detailed high-res imagery of artworks online, and also shooting them with a variety of different types of cameras, so you can get a better sense of the texture. I’m really excited how this internet is being used to build this archive of art, and obviously it doesn’t diminish the physical work. The internet is with so much noise, it’s nice to see quieter things from other points in time that are still very important.

Fake Unboxing videos
Unboxing videos follow a simple concept: someone opens a package on camera and then reacts. Usually the package contains a product that people are excited about. New gadgets, tech products, inspire very popular unboxing videos. They’re also really big in the toy community, the whole collector’s edition thing. Then there are the parody videos, where someone is going to the trouble of covering objects in playdough, just to peel it off in front of us. We derive so much joy from this that 500 million people are going to watch that video. I don’t understand these videos entirely or the audience for them is. Are they children? Are they adults? Are they all high? In any case, there’s something endearing about the fact that someone would go to all this trouble and that people are so thrilled about it.

Photo portrait: Charlie Rubin.

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