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M.I.A.'s MoMA PS1 Lecture, as Dancing GIFs

Yesterday, the British/Sri Lankan provocateur M.I.A. gave a lecture at MoMA PS1 about her new autobiographical art book, which is out now. The unscripted, two-and-a-half-hour talk basically amounted to M.I.A. browsing the three laptops she used to make her first three albums, projecting files onto a huge screen and explaining how she made different images, and how those images informed her music. Stencils of Tamil women she spray-painted onto plywood, classic album covers with the artists' names crossed off and hers Photoshopped in their place and Google searches that had been strategically blacked-out so the text results resembled assault rifles—it's all in the book. M.I.A. is a far more compelling artist than a talker-about-art, but she made the whole thing worth it when she explained her first forays into video, at Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. "This is what I used to do in Steve's basement," she said, laughing and scrolling through grainy footage of herself dancing, which she had chopped up and looped. "It was not great, but it was a way for me to learn his computer. I made this frame-by-frame. I'd cut the background out—now it's just a click of a button, but back then, that was what I did for two weeks. I'd make this loop, which is now like a GIF, and that was enough." Sitting in the audience, given this unexpected access to videos straight off M.I.A.'s hard drive, the most logical thing seemed to film the projector screen and take the footage full-circle: to turn her best dance moves into GIFs.

M.I.A.'s MoMA PS1 Lecture, as Dancing GIFs