Christian Petersen

Smiley Smile


This was one of the first GIFs i made that became popular. Around the time that I first created Gif Lords (a Tumblr page to house my own GIFs and others that I admired) I decided to start an experiment to see if I could create GIFs that would be popular. I have always tried to balance my creativity somewhere between art and populism. It's really important for me for people not to be alienated or excluded by my work. I wondered if it is possible to create 'popular' GIFs whilst maintaining my personal aesthetics. I studied Tumblr for memes and 'hits' and tried to create work that would feed into those things and hopefully inspire endless reblogs. Needless to say, on the whole, my experiment was a total failure. Some things did ok but the unpredictability of Tumblr popularity became very quickly apparent. Things that I was certain would be 'huge' were universally ignored. Something that I was bringing to the equation was not working. Something 'not cool' to the Tumblr generation. This GIF is the only creation from this experiment that really took off. I chose a Smiley because it is such a ubiquitous and universally loved symbol that has been constantly reinvented for every generation since it first appeared in the 60’s. I had always loved it and had used the symbol many times in my work before making this GIF. This was probably my purest and simplest expression of it so far. After it became popular on Tumblr I tried to recreate it's success by making things in a similar style but nothing else worked in the same way. Soon I abandoned the experiment and started making GIFs just for myself. I would have minor 'hits' at exactly the same rate as when I was deliberately trying to appeal to people. This gif represents the flowering of my interest in the workings of the Internet and how my own creativity could live within it. On a more personal level it represented a fleeting moment of pure popularity.


Christian Petersen is a Artist/Curator/Graphic Designer/Video Maker/Gif Maker/ Photographer who currently resides in Seattle, Washington. He Recieved his BA Honours degree from Central St. Martins College of Art and Design in London. He worked as a freelance designer and illustrator in London before moving to Seattle in 2006 where he co-founded the design company Dumb Eyes serving as Creative Director. In 2007 Petersen was voted the Erotic Photographer of the Year in the UK. In 2008 he created the online and print magazine I Want You showcasing a hugely eclectic mix of artists including many up-and-coming new media artists. Petersen has created and curated a wide range of art events and exhibitions in Seattle and an artist he has exhibited in a large number of galleries around the world. In 2012 he formed his own design company called I Want You Art and Design working with an wide range of creative clients. In 2015 Petersen launched the online gallery Digital Sweat dedicated to the exploration of erotic and sexual themes by digital artists. He regularly contributes writings on the arts to the websites Société Perrier, The Creators Project and Good.