A few more thoughts on Paddy Johnson's essay for Artnet: Will Galleries and Museums Ever Embrace Animated GIF Art?.
As noted in an update to the previous post, Johnson didn't do well to rely so heavily on quotes from Andrew Benson, a GIF maker coming out of the film community (as opposed to the art community). His statements such as "I feel like there’s not a good way to view [GIFs] in the gallery setting” and that a web browser is “a pretty terrible art viewing context” are highly debatable. Johnson knows that Aron Namenwirth, Marcin Ramocki, Paul Slocum, Sally McKay, Lorna Mills, and yours truly were all involved with gallery GIF display going back many years. How much did Benson know about this art-centric dialogue? Johnson described me as an "early adopter" and for the record, Rhizome's San Francisco gallery show "The GIF Show" (which I was in) and my Brooklyn gallery solo show "Room Sized Animated GIFs" took place 8 years ago. Where was Benson during all this?
As for Johnson's statement that GIF culture "lives or dies" at the behest of social media platforms, again she relies on Benson and he is dead wrong about the following statement:
"We’ve come to rely on these consumer-grade solutions because that’s what’s available, but it was never the intention of the makers. It was never the intention of Google+ to be the platform for sharing animated GIFs,” Benson said.
Just under three years ago Tom Anderson, the famous "Tom of Myspace," wrote this statement of pure PR flackery on Google+:
I was planning to write a semi-long post on the "Power of the .GIF" But this photo says it all. We allowed .GIFs at MySpace and it added so much personality to profile photos, comments, shares and everything else. I knew FB was the anti-MySpace and didn't want that kind of Tomfoolery on the network, but I'm glad to see them back here at G+. I think G+ has a nice balance of the serious and the whimsical, and .GIFs are your friend :) Wonder if Twitter will be allowing more rich media inline, or will they hold down the 140 character fort?
Around the same time, Lorna Mills and a handful of others interested in the GIF as art seconded Tom by moving their production over to G+. This was not an impromptu or guerrilla action, it was more like a scenario where artists take advantage of cheap space offered by a real estate developer hoping to attract attention to a new building. And now they're all bored with it. GIF activity may "live or die" depending on the platform but in this case it wasn't from any lack of interest on the part of the platform itself.
What I told Johnson in my phone interview for the article was this: Eight years ago when I did the "Room Sized Animated GIFs" show we couldn't get any traditional art critics (Times, Time Out, etc) to focus on the show. My feeling at the time was they didn't know what a GIF was, or if they did, they didn't feel comfortable evaluating it. If we did the same show today, every one of them would know what a GIF is, but the show would come with the burden of widespread familiarity with "reaction GIFs," YouTube screencaps, and other popular uses of GIFs. It would still be hard to get a serious review of say, an abstract GIF, or whether a GIF is still a GIF if you show it on a TV, or what enlarged scale does to a GIF, or the browser-centric nature of the GIF, etc. That's because we haven't had enough shows or criticism in the intervening eight years that would address these questions.
Addendum: I questioned how effective Google+'s GIF commitment would be in a couple of posts back when G+ started. Prior to G+, Google had been indifferent to GIFs and seemed to be wanting to phase them out in favor of HTML5 magic but about that time GIFs became a "thing" and they got on board with "Tom."
since i was talking about sara ludy's pan gifs, i tried to optimize one and this happened
Have been massaging this paragraph on the non-romantic new romantic Sara Ludy -- it's a bit clearer now:
Ludy describes Pan GIFs as "a series of animated gifs displayed as tiled backgrounds. Each gif is composed of two photographs that alternate with a linear transition, creating a repetition which both embraces and attempts to break the mundanity of everyday landscapes and architectures." By means of a simple, sweeping left-to-right pan one photo gradually eclipses a second, different-angle view of the same subject (a forest, a wall with cast shadow, a plant in a planter). While the scan is occurring a clear reading of both images breaks down. Because the GIF is "tiled" the scanning movement repeats across the entire screen, providing a view rather like an insect's compound eye. This causes a single predominant color or texture momentarily to colonize the screen. The lurch into a de-familiarizing zone of pure form is a classical technique, even though the underlying images may be romantic ones of gardens and hillsides. But even the disrupted tropes aren't that romantic: they seem to have been chosen for a vibe of sterile alienation.
painting made with Computers Club Drawing Society software "Chibi Paint" -- this is a layer -- still mulling over a version with an additional layer
Thanks to Michael Manning for the shout and Lindsay Howard for noting my (doomed) attempt to give context to his paintings -- the occasion is this Rhizome interview of the former by the latter, published yesterday.
In January last year I wrote this about Manning:
[His] recent images consist of touchscreen paintings with menu-selected brushes, textures and hues; am guessing these are "augmented finger paintings" and not done with a stylus. He has made them on the iPad as well as with Windows 8 demo screens inside the Microsoft Store [alien country for the Apple-brainwashed creative elite -- obligatory dig --ed.]. The buildup of color, washes, and calligraphic line in digital gesture painting can be seductive but let's remember the original AbEx artists also employed cinematic scale, gloppy physical media, and the athleticism of pushing the glop around with long-handled brushes. They would have laughed to see people making micro-movements on a TV screen and then saving them as jpegs and PNGs. The "action painting" model has been pretty thoroughly discredited but those are the reasons it's in museums, at any rate. Am possibly more interested in Manning's steady output of tiny de Kooningesque and Twomblyesque color-spasms as performance-cum-notation having to do with "available technology" and the instant masterpieces "apps" promise to deliver than some electronic de-reification of the earnest Real of gestural abstraction, although both motivations might be present. Also they are pretty, and it's always good to annoy the Marxist art-as-hair-shirt crowd.
The next day Brian Droitcour covered the same work for Rhizome but couched it more in terms of brands and corporate colonization of the web. Essentially he said that Manning is post-brand in not restricting his work to a single "silo." Yet both of us mentioned the Microsoft Store -- Rhizome even ran a photo of a store exterior. That's a hook and refers to a brand even if it's an ironic joke. I ventured that the "Store" paintings were actually better than the iPad paintings and Droitcour accused me on twitter of loving Microsoft. Now Manning says we're both nitpicking because "I don't really care about brands or the branded part of any of it, I just look at them all like toys lol." (Then why did you call them... oh, never mind.) None of this matters in the slightest to the art dealers who are currently selling printed-out versions of the paintings -- all the collector wants to know is that it's being written about in the right venues. More power to Manning for leveraging the critical vacuum to his advantage, I guess. His own stated reasons for doing the paintings are perfectly valid.
From a web page called eclectic obsessions:
Frank Zappa recruited artist Neon Park to create a subversive image based on
a cover story from the September 1956 issue of Man's Life, (a Men's adventure
magazine). After showing Neon a copy of the magazine, Zappa inquired, "This
is it. What can you do that's worse than this?" Neon's answer was to craft a
parody of an advertisement for Schick brand electric razor based on the
"Weasels Ripped My Flesh" theme. The record company released
the album despite its reservations about the album cover.
This is an iconic '60s/'70s LP cover, subversive because it gives a disgusting and disturbing spin to bland and hopeful Eisenhower-era advertising, and because one did not expect to witness self-mutilating "cutting" behavior while shopping the pop music bin. The genius of the image is taking an actual slogan and context from the "repressed" side of the '50s -- a homoerotic painting of a bare-chested man being attacked by wild animals -- weasels no less -- and grafting it onto a safe image of a man shaving with a newfangled device from America's flying car future. A double irony is that the weasels illustration was on the cover of the magazine (albeit back-of-the-rack) while the shaver is barely glanced at commercial fodder from the inside.
One might wonder about the fate of such an image today. In its day, it needed gatekeepers who felt uncomfortable about it but ultimately approved it, and it needed a distribution scheme, in particular, cardboard record sleeves shipped to stores across the country, including discount centers in small towns dependent on the "coasts" for culture. It needed an authoritarian structure to push back against, and it needed to be able to "slip through the gates." Now it might garner a few hundred tumblr notes, depending on who was releasing it, and it might help improve an LP's click-through or download visibility, but without a hot button topic such as racism or sexism it has nothing to rebel against. It's merely disgusting and disturbing (and well-painted).
hat tips to Joel Cook's icon collection
Tom Moody: ADDAC Systems damn your temperamental wav player and its proper wav order and naming syntax all to hell (much as i like this module)
Zachary Michels: I've written a Matlab script that converts WAV's and file names to put on an SD card. Let me know if you want it...
Tom Moody: Thanks - saving & naming wavs "by hand" makes me think about them more - was commenting mainly on the ADDAC player's quirks
Zachary Michels: I hear ya. I've also enjoyed surprises that come from being able to quickly and mindlessly populate an SD card with new WAV's. :)
Tom Moody: "Surprises from being able to quickly and mindlessly populate an SD card with new wavs" OK sold -- now i need to learn Matlab
Modification of a Sterling Crispin GIF. It's not really a jellyfish - that's a descriptive word so I could find the file again.
Threaded through these plugs are my gripes about the light weight of concepts such as GIFs of the Day, so you can't say Johnson turns a hearing-impaired ear to her critics.
The short answer to the title of the artnet piece is, "No, not if you say GIFs peaked two years ago."
I don't agree at all that "the popularity of Dump.fm was just beginning to fade" in 2012 -- the site is going strong even if Johnson isn't visiting -- or with most of this paragraph:
And while that mentality seems very much behind the rise of the art GIF party, sustained growth at the level seen in 2012 seems almost impossible. The Dump.fm community has shrunk over the years, and nobody I spoke to uses Google+ anymore. “I really do think of that first summer with Google+ as a beautiful era for GIFs,” [Anthony] Antonellis recalled. “It did something more than Dump.fm could,” he said, referring to the extended time users had to respond to posts. Google+ acted more like a blog than Dump’s chat room.
Antonellis belongs to the moribund Google+ GIF posse (where GIFs never looked good at all) and in his maudlin lament for the demise of that one-off proposition attempts to drag Dump.fm down with him. Sadly, Johnson goes along with this false narrative. It doesn't need to be stated that the GIFs of the day, week, year and decade that post like clockwork on tommoody.us mostly originate with Dump.fm, not Google+, and that the quality and energy is unabated, no matter what sad-sacks who trusted a big company to host their social experience around GIFs might say.
Update: Another G+ moaner in the article is Andrew Benson. Apparently he comes to GIFs from the film world, so you can pretty much discount what he says about art GIFs, including his statements such as "I feel like there’s not a good way to view [GIFs] in the gallery setting” and that a web browser is “a pretty terrible art viewing context.” According to who else? Benson also chimed in helpfully on Nicholas O'Brien's post about NEW INC, the art incubator: "I feel like we are in need of more experiments in survival, going outside the existing structures, and challenging assumed cultural barriers." Meaning it's OK to develop art like a product, with a venture capitalist's expectation of return on investment.