Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

The GIF artist who draws with humans

By Daisy Carrington, for CNN
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Turksih artist Erdal Inci makes Istanbul come alive in GIFs. Above is titled 'Stumblers'.
Courtesy Erdal Inci
  • Turkish artist Erdil Inci clones himself on GIFs to make surreal patterns
  • He stages public performances in Istanbul when no one is around
  • He views his work at the video equivalent of music

Viewing this on your mobile device? Click here to view Inci's GIFs.

(CNN) -- To Erdal Inci, GIFs are a form of visual music.

"When I started to look at the physics of music, I saw something that is unchanging. It's like you have a unique moment, and it repeats endlessly in the form of musical notes. I realized that I could do the same thing in video."

The Turkish digital artist has made a name for himself -- both online and in the gallery circuit -- for his surreal, looping works. In keeping with the demands of the art form, Inci's videos consist of short, one- to two-second clips looped in an endless run. Istanbul features prominently in the backdrop of his work, as does Inci himself.

'Taksim Spiral'
Courtesy Erdal Inci
Courtesy Erdal Inci

"The city has really nice scenery and a beautiful light scene. I've decided to use this beautiful scenery as a decoration of some show. I've decided to use it as a set," he says.

Inci seems to favor theater terms. Though his audience tends to view his work from their living rooms, he still sees what he does as a public performance, albeit it one in which he plays all the roles.

'Light Dome'
Courtesy Erdal Inci
Courtesy Erdal Inci
Courtesy Erdal Inci

He is the cast. Though there may be only one of him, he is able to use cloning tools to make more. He is also the crew; he is at once choreographer, director, editor and distributor.

"You can't put on a show in a public space without permission from the municipality. If you want a crowd scene, you need too many people. With this technique, I have a chance to show choreography to people in any possible place, like Taksim Square. And I just need one person. That's why I use myself -- it's the easiest way to do it. When you clone yourself, you can create an army that will move as you want. You don't need any production or special cameras," he says.

His looping selfie army can be slightly comical, but it can also be eerie and haunting, which is precisely the effect he's going for.

"Sometimes people tell me they find my work spooky or scary. To hear that the work makes people feel something is the best comment for me," he says.

Though his GIFs, once looped, contain a mere second or two of footage, it can take Inci as much as ten days to film and edit a single piece. To make sure he is alone with his city when filming, he usually sets up his camera on a fixed tripod between 3am and 5am.

"Some people are out that time of day," he concedes.

'In Karakoy'
Courtesy Erdal Inci
'Hierapolis Amphitheatre'
Courtesy Erdal Inci
Courtesy Erdal Inci

"Sometimes they won't see the camera, because it's far away, and they'll just see me streaming nonsense, or running on a spiral path, like a crazy man."

Inci says he finds comfort in the patterns he's able to create using just himself, a light source and the background.

"I create a human pattern. I can fill a space with those patterns. I have a chance to draw a line with people. The repetition makes me personally relaxed," he says.

Read: What would Scarface look like in a fez?

Read: Bollywood dreams in Dubai's labor camps

Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:46 PM EST, Tue November 4, 2014
Robot dinosaurs, Lego men and Spider-Man all could become Dubai's newest residents.
updated 10:18 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Not long ago camel milk was an unfancied staple, the preserve of Bedouin herders. Now its becoming a luxury.
updated 10:12 PM EDT, Wed October 8, 2014
Managing over 2 million people during the Hajj takes some serious technology.
updated 2:11 AM EDT, Tue October 7, 2014
More needs to be done so women from Saudi Arabia can become world champions in sports.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Thu October 30, 2014
Is nothing sacred? How tech allows narcissism to run riot.
From the waters of the Persian Gulf a new mega museum is emerging.
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Where better to start a record-breaking solar powered flight than the desert?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Ahmed Eldin is the 18-year-old behind the prog-rock band's new album cover. Shine on you crazy diamond.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
The Humans of New York photo project exposes the hopes and fears of ordinary people in Iraq and Jordan.
updated 10:06 PM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Dubai's appetite for construction continues with multi-billion dollar boost to build the world's largest airport.
updated 11:02 PM EDT, Mon September 8, 2014
The UAE is becoming a hub for plastic surgery with more Emiratis going under the knife each year.
updated 7:20 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
Meet Erdal Inci, a digital artist from Turkey who is transforming the medium.
updated 9:39 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Iran is pumping billions of dollars into a scheme to save a lake. What's so important about it?