GIF artwork is one of many new genres that explore the potential of different web media.
Online art platform Paddle8 and the social network Tumblr are collaboratively launching “Moving the Still”, reputedly the world’s first GIF art festival. Due to their popularity on the internet, GIFs have become a pop culture staple. Not until recently though, has the concept of GIF as art been explored.
A GIF, short for Graphics Interchange Format, is an image format commonly used on the web for short animated clips played on a non-stop loop. While GIFs are typically relegated to the domain of cute cats or reality television, some are now seeing them as a potential medium for art.
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the invention of the GIF, integrated art promotion and sales platform Paddle8 and the popular social media sharing site Tumblr are co-organising “Moving the Still“, billed as “the world’s first large-scale, open call festival for GIF art”.
From 17 October to 7 November 2012, organisers collected submissions from GIF-makers around the world, all of which can be viewed on the “Moving the Still” Tumblr archive. From these, a panel of judges, including painter Richard Phillips and R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe, will choose the winning entries, which will be displayed in a physical exhibition during Art Basel Miami Beach.
As an indication of the massive popularity of the image format, the word “GIF” itself was recently named the Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year for 2012. Chief Council Member for “Moving the Still” Johnny Misheff believes that it is important to reflect on the role GIFs play as a uniquely contemporary medium. As he states on the festival website,
The GIF is one of the most recognised and well-loved forms of digital media in use today. We’re celebrating it’s 25th birthday this year. Some of you will remember those early iterations that popped up onto the interwebs… all the clip art, like the waving American flag; those Under Construction banners in heavy use during the nineties; the dancing baby in diapers; that crazed dancing woman — well, ALL those silly dancing people, really. Everyone currently using the internet has seen a GIF. The last few years have seen the GIF rise to a level of prominence of epic proportions. Artists have taken to the medium with an incredible fervor. Businesses use them to send lighter, more compressed advertisements via email. The Net Generation has taken to the GIF in a myriad ways, from fan art to the revolutionary meme. Perhaps more than any other medium, the GIF embraces a diversity inherent in its simple function. Plus, they are extremely fun and easy to make.
“Moving the Still” is not the first outlet to recognise the GIF as an art form.
In 2011, Art Fag City Founding Editor Paddy Johnson organised the GIF-centred exhibition Graphics Interchange Format at the Mulberry Gallery at Ohio’s Denison University. In May 2012, The Photographers Gallery in London also launched their five-year exhibition project “BORN IN 1987: THE ANIMATED GIF“, for which they invited a range of non-GIF-making creatives to submit their plays on the format. And, while not art per se, earlier this year ARTINFO published an article on the “25 Wackiest art-themed GIFs“, including two appropriately zany clips of playful contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
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