Art Gallery Does the Impossible, Makes Gifs Boring

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 12:20 PM

According to Wired, London's Saatchi gallery has created a gif competition that awards prizes in what it now calls "motion photography." Wired sees this as legitimizing gifs as an artform, but in the process of legitimizing, it completely misunderstands the point of gifs.

Gifs are part of the internet's vocabulary. They can be a representative language that conveys information, like road signs:

Or they can be a isolation of or reflection on a piece of pop-culture, either funny or poignant, usually speaking directly to their fanbase:

There's also the occasionally amazing (or horrifying) optical illusion gif.

But these Saatchi gifs, they just don't tell us anything. They are very pedestrian, and seem to totally misunderstand what gifs are supposed to do. Part of the appeal of gifs are the chaos and their relationship to the culture. These are completely separate, and just feel like photography with a couple of extra frames. 

No thanks. I'll stick with gifs that speak internet language. Gifs that speak to me. Gifs like this, for example:

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Comments [5]

Colin from Cambridge, Ontario

Swing and a miss from the usually reliable TL;DR.

The very purpose of art is to take existing forms and "misuse" them, reinvent them.

While I appreciate the humour and shock-value of the "traditional" anigif, the Saatchi examples drew me in in a different way... I found myself exploring the frames, looking for movement and trying to determine meaning. Very interesting.

Apr. 30 2014 02:38 PM
Adam Gonzalez from New York

Is the Saatchi Gallery misunderstanding what gifs are "supposed" to be, or are they using the technology for a different purpose? You mention that they feel less like gifs and more like photographs, but I'd think putting "photography" right in the name says that's intentional.

Gifs have a certain meaning and significance on the internet, but using the same technology in a different context doesn't make that new context wrong.

(Also, let's not forget that the technical term for a photograph with extra frames is, after all, a film.)

Apr. 29 2014 04:46 PM
ceolaf from CT

Judgy. Close minded. Prescriptive.

It’s now a problem that others have differnet taste or preferences than you do? It’s a problem or a mistake others see a different value in something than your do? It’s a problem that someone has a different aesthetic than you do?

Judgy. Close minded. Prescriptive.

You are TLDR.

Apr. 29 2014 03:49 PM
thomas ryan from Seattle

Have you looked in to the .webm format replacing gifs for animated images?

There is a big movement on 4chans /gif/ board for moving to motion compressed as webm video (without audio enabled) and not gif as a much more efficient format.

Apr. 29 2014 03:34 PM
J. Calvin Smith

This is a bit of a funny headline to me, coming from a broadcast web source so often concerned with the hyperbolic nature of internet culture. Of course a mainstream art show, even of a 'Net-based art form, is going to come across as more sedate to our sensationalization-numbed sensibilities.

Apr. 29 2014 01:14 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. You can subscribe to our podcast here. You can follow our blog here. We’re also on Twitter, and we play Team Fortress 2 more or less constantly, so find us there if you like to communicate via computer games from six years ago.

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