You’ve probably noticed that here at Pedestrian, it’s no secret that we’re unashamed fans of the Graphics Interchangeable Format, and all the joy a limited animation loop of what is usually unbridled feelings gives. We celebrated Jennifer Lawrence‘s birthday in the only way we knew how – with a whole bunch of GIFs. We were furious when the creator of the GIF announced that the hard “g” we were using to pronounce GIF was wrong. We cheered, with GIFs, when google opened up our incessant gif-searching options. We’ve got a precious folder named “Karlos’ Best GIF moments” at the ready. Hell, just thinking about GIFs is making me teary.
Anyway, aside from illustrating our drinking games and augmenting our appalling millennial social skills by using GIFs to express feelings were words would have done just as an efficient job, the longer we browse tumblr and ffffound, the more convinced we become at GIFs not just being destined for wry, obscure pop culture references; it becomes clear that GIFs can certainly be innovative, captivating works of art.
Last week, as part of the high-end New York auction house Paddle 8’s Paddles ON, founder of the UCLA Arts Software Studio Casey Reas listed his work Americans! (2013) alongside a slew of other digital artworks, including Molly Soda‘s—as profiled on The Verge yesterday—work “Inbox Full“, an eight hour performance video that has Soda reading allowed the messages from strangers that clogged her tumblr inbox. Casey Reas’ generative, custom software artwork (displayed in GIF format) seen below, sold for an impressive (though modest by Paddles ON standards) US$11,000. Similarly, Nicholas Sassoon‘s animated GIF artwork Waterfall 6 (2013) attracted an $1800 estimate on the auction site.
The further you remove yourself from the medium as simply a fanboy/girl’s medium of choice to express their #OTPs and hapless fan fiction plots—and start seeking out the innovative world of GIF making—the stuttering, undulating, pixel-ridden form that is so inherent to the medium becomes not only surprisingly conventional, but also astoundingly beautiful. Casey Reas’ work illustrates that glitch-art aesthetic perfectly. While there’s a slippery dilemma surrounding digital art and GIF art in particular—how do you “own” a GIF on the internet? How does copyright kick in?—we’re at an interesting artistic period where digital art, as Reas’ sell confirms, is beginning to be taken seriously.
And when GIFs can be hypnotic,
a unique brand tool,