tom galle turns everyday procrastinations into meme art

Nike logo knives and flip flops made from iPhone packaging: welcome to the digital world of Tom Galle.

by Juule Kay
09 November 2018, 5:08am

This article originally appeared on i-D Germany.

Sometimes there are days when we feel blessed, our creativity is next level and every trivial idea seems to be the life-changing one that will suddenly make Tabi boots affordable. Then there are other days, ones where nothing seems to work and we spend hours staring into the void of our screen. As a result you could: a) feel sorry for yourself, b) call it quits or c) see what the internet has to offer in the way of procrastination.

But option c) doesn't always have to be something that makes you feel bad. "I call it positive procrastination, a term I probably gave to get rid of the guilt of wasting time," explains Belgian-born meme artist Tom Galle, who's already worked with clients like Nike, Netflix and Google and is (internet-)famous for his approach of hyper-digital nowness. After living in New York for more than five years, where he made Tinder IRL with an art performance that went viral, Tom recently moved to Berlin. The move away from the US, where the majority of meme culture seems to come from, is proving fruitful for the artist by adding a layer of distance to his work. Here we speak to Tom about his creations, his understanding of "going viral" and how to find productivity in procrastination.

"My friend and I were playing around with logos and contemporary branding in our work. This concept was much more about the violence of corporate culture. The oppression these logos stand for, and the sense anger or rebellion against these corporations."

How would you introduce yourself and your work?
I’m a conceptual artist that uses memetic language to make work about a variety of subjects such as digital culture, contemporary branding, corporate culture and the effects of technology on our society. My work purposely has a viral, or sometimes even clickbait side to it, my aim is for it to travel around the internet and be absorbed by different subcultures.

"To me the absurdity or surrealness often comes from small subtle ideas, not from grandiose thinking to impress people. Simple ideas work best for me."

What makes a photo a good photo for you?
With the proliferation of digital visual culture through platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, literally any photo can end up in internet and eventually in your social feeds. That means there’s a sort of "flattening" of visual work. Whatever you post will be competing or shown alongside an infinite number of possibilities, all seen as equal or in the same context. I like work that understand this context and works with it — exposing the viewer to the less expected. In a way, it does start to feel like a lot of photographers are trained the wrong way, as you can spot them from kilometres away. Their work often feels too fabricated and not authentic, often similar in style and choice of subjects.

Tom Galle Meme Art I-phone
"I'm really into working with symbols and religion and what happens when placing them in a different context or visual language."

What does the everyday life of a meme artist look like?
Immersing yourself into meme culture and its latest trends is a daily task. This means spending hours wandering around the internet and looking at pop culture, news, events and all the memes that originate from that. Usually ideas come naturally to me in the process, the ideas that stick around the longest will be the ones that I’ll move forward with. I call it “positive procrastination”, a term I probably gave to get rid of the guilt of “wasting time”. I think that procrastinating is part of the creative process, especially now with the internet as our main inspiration source.

Personal Digital Space Tom Galle Meme Art
"A lot of my work conveys 'digital feelings'. Using the Internet is a very personal experience, therefore you have a very intimate relationship with your device. Imagine people being able to see who’s instagram profiles you’re checking, what youtube rabbithole you end up going down in. All these things reveal a lot about us. This work expresses that personal relationship you have with your device -- and the space you deserve for it."

You’re originally from Belgium. Why did you move to Berlin and how is the city shaping your work as an artist?
After five years of living in New York I felt it was time for a move. I think I’ve always kept in mind that someday I will move back to Europe, and Berlin seems the obvious choice for someone who aspires to keep developing themselves as an artist or creative. The first things I noticed and kind of forgot about Europe is that we’re really a step further away from meme culture. Sure, you can still follow the same meme accounts as in the US, but it’s not entirely the same experience if you’re not living the contents of the memes you're consuming, as most of them still seem to originate in the US.

Tom Galle Meme Art
"I travelled a lot to Japan back in these days and took inspiration from the culture there. There were a bunch of references I was playing around with, and I liked how the Japanese Geta could be turned into these tech-design-fetish objects."

If you could give all the artists out there a life advice, what would it be?
Not to care too much. There are too many opinions on the internet anyways, sticking to yours will be a difficult enough task. That’s not to say not to listen to constructive feedback or being critical to your own work. Social media led to a sort of ‘psyche exhibitionism’, where everyone constantly exposes their emotions and opinions about literally everything. It’s easy to get caught up in that or take things personal. When that happens, just log off lol.


tom galle