This artist's GIFs are too hot for Facebook
Phazed, this week's Exhibitionist in Residence, is all about sex, cats and video games.
Sex, cats and video games: these are a few of the Internet's favourite things. They're some of Phazed's all-time faves, too, and for those who've yet to see one of his rainbow-dipped images turn up in their Tumblr feed, the Ottawa-based artist (also known as Jean-Francois Painchaud) is taking over this this Sunday's episode of Exhibitionists with his animated GIFs, line-drawn images that pulse with neon sensation — a little trick that involves re-drawing each figure multiple times.
"When I'm browsing the Internet," Phazed tells CBC Arts, "I love seeing cats, I love seeing things that are kind of sexy, or just very colourful."
"I try to combine a bit of everything that interests me," he says of his art. "It's a combination of philosophical ideas about psychedelic experiences I've had and just things that I find really fun to look at."
The colour scheme is brighter than a Lisa Frank sticker book, and the content is straight out of your average dude's browser history, but as sure as porn sites get "more visitors than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined," Phazed's stuff is frequently NSFW. For an artist so inspired by the Internet, he's repeatedly experienced online censorship — and it's only made him more interested in challenging the definition of "community standards."
Phazed talked to CBC Arts about the pros and cons of being booted from Facebook, and where he sees the line between art and pornography.
Sorry, You've Been Blocked
Last summer, after posting an album of erotic art to Facebook, Phazed says he was blocked by the social network for a month after a user reported him.
It wasn't the first time. Over a two year period, he'd had pictures removed by Facebook on similar grounds, he says, and he'd experienced the same on Instagram. "Every now and then, I'd just post something to mess around and see what happens," says Phazed, "and most of the time it got me in trouble."
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Per Facebook's Community Standards, nudity is largely restricted, though they "allow photographs of paintings, sculptures and other art that depicts nude figures." Depictions of sexual activity are a more definite no-no. "Explicit images of sexual intercourse are prohibited," as are "vivid" descriptions of sexual activity.
In line with the guidelines, Phazed says he covers up anything he posts to Facebook and Instagram. The album that got him blocked had been treated the same way, he says — self-censored with "little squares" — but that didn't matter when its popularity exploded.
"That album brought 12.6 million people to my page," Phazed says. "There was bound to be some people who were going to report it."
He was temporarily booted from Facebook as a result, but when he returned, his audience was waiting and then some. "Overnight, it brought me 50,000 new followers," Phazed says of the incident, which also led to media attention, including a story in Vice.
"I definitely make an effort now to censor everything, though I try to show how silly it is," Phazed explains. "There was a good side and a bad side to it, but it's all good in the end, I guess."
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Who needs Facebook?
When sex is one of your favourite subjects, why publish to Facebook or Instagram, or any social network that forbids explicit material? Isn't that what the rest of the Internet is for?
"That's a good point, but I guess that's part of me rebelling against authority in a way," says Phazed, who posts uncensored versions of his work elsewhere, Tumblr most notably.
"I get it. There are some people who are at work or whatever and they're going through their news feed and they don't want to see that kind of stuff," he says, presumably not referring to the animated kittens and puppies who could've been scooped from bucket of bubble gum ice cream.
"I'm very aware of these rules. It's their website, and if they want to ban me, or if they want me to censor my stuff, I have to do that," he says. "But if you have rules put in place, it doesn't necessarily make it right. So I kind of try to push things. I want to see if I can try to make people a bit more comfortable with certain things."
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Art or porn?
If a sexual image is dreamed up in Photoshop, it doesn't automatically make it art. But it doesn't necessarily make it porn, either. When he's depicting sex, Phazed says: "I try to do it in a way that shows emotion and more in a loving way. [It's] more affectionate and sensual, rather than something cold. You know, like what most people would be aware of seeing on the Internet."
"I don't mind if some people think it's pornographic," he says of his work. "It's part of life, and it's part of my life."
"We can't deny that people are into sexuality, just like we can't deny that people are into cats, or colourful beautiful things," says Phazed. "I don't try to deny any of it and suppress any of the things I find interesting."