7 tips on breaking animated gifs


A friend sent me a link promising "7 tips for designing awesome animated GIFs." The tip-offering design firm has a home page in the obnoxious new style that every dotcom 2.0 startup seems to be using. Instead of a neatly-organized page giving you basic information about the company (who we are, what we do, portfolio), you get a screen-filling explosion of video and graphics that seems more about obfuscating than informing.
Lots of elegantly greyed-out video clips of happy corporate workers with coffee cups next to laptops, conferencing in converted loft spaces with chalkboards. As you scroll down, testimonials from happy customers.


The homepage is optimized for a 1920 pixel wide screen -- when you shrink the width of the window you get the mess above. But it's not much better at the desired width. The designers' philosophy seems to be "entertainment before information," and projecting various class signifiers and logos to show what kinds of clients they expect to have. Ironically the product is some kind of "workflow" thing.

Their GIF tips aren't surprising -- use a pricy video editor, export to Photoshop, then employ various optimization tricks. The tippers brag that they "opted to use GIFs on our home page instead of fancy code-based animations." This is kind of funny because a few years ago some of Paddy Johnson's "tech" commenters were razzing me for suggesting that GIFs were a perfectly adequate alternative to fancy code-based animations.

Anyway, here are the tips on breaking animated GIFs:
1. Choose your targets wisely. Would this look more funny/stupid if broken?
2. Find an online image editor. Start messing around with the settings.
3. Does your broken GIF look too much like "glitch art" or "datamoshing"? Back to the drawing board. Avoid "art" cliches.
4. What is your purpose behind breaking the GIF? Are you making a philosophical point about entropy or is this just for "lulz"?
5. Who is your intended audience? Is it an art audience or a "funny junk" bulletin board? (Related to No. 4 above.)
6. Does the GIF really look broken or just badly made? (Think about that, too.)
7. Always pad listicles out to odd numbers.

Knob Twiddlers (new Bandcamp release)

Am pleased to announce a new Bandcamp release titled Knob Twiddlers.

Some LP notes:

Between Christmas and New Year's I made a cassette tape of tunes using my modular synth's "Quad ADSR" module as an LFO/clock/trigger for various gear. The resulting polyrhythmic or at least slightly eccentrically rhythmic tracks undergird the songs with ADSR in the title (in this and the previous release, Discreet Mutations). Otherwise I am continuing a program of self-bricolage where I take older tunes, chop them up, speed them up, combine them with other songs, or write new passages that serve as bridges and fills among dangling motifs. Am continuing to rely heavily on Native Instruments' Massive synth for ear candy to sweeten up these tracks, but there is also a fair amount of live, analog material plopped in here.

A new Bandcamp front page has thumbnail covers for the 12 releases so far.
Your support in the form of buying the LPs or songs is very encouraging, but all the material can be streamed. Cassettes are available for certain releases; eventually I hope to have the entire catalog available on cassette and probably CD-R as well.

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we don't need no stinking bruce nauman

Let's give that phrase "our Bruce Nauman" a bit more unpacking.

Ed Halter's use of it in his Artforum cover story on Guthrie Lonergan was essentially lazy.

He didn't do the hard critical work of explaining (i) what Bruce Nauman represents as an artist or (ii) what it means for a new media artist to "be a Bruce Nauman." There is one throw-away line: "If Nauman asserted that anything that happens in an artist’s studio can be art, Lonergan updated this claim for an age in which the artist’s studio had become a laptop."

Early in the last century, Dadaist Tristan Tzara said "everything the artist spits is art" -- why couldn't Lonergan be our Tzara, spewing art from his laptop? Rather than fleshing out the Nauman reference with examples, Halter practiced a kind of laying-on-of-hands where sacerdotal energy is conveyed from an established (living) master to a newbie through the medium of an almost-established master.

Halter quotes Cory Arcangel, a somewhat well-known "computer artist" operating in both the new media and gallery worlds, saying that Guthrie Lonergan, a "computer artist" who is mainly known in new media circles, is "our Bruce Nauman." The magic energy circuit is completed and authentication juice flows from Nauman into Lonergan. And the writer avoids having to translate new media concepts to a gallery-based art world. This was so effective that when ARTnews later did a feature on Lonergan (in the form of an artist's diary) they used the same trick:

Guthrie Lonergan is an elusive and influential internet artist whom Cory Arcangel once called “our Bruce Nauman.” Along with a corresponding essay by Ed Halter, an image from his 2005 series “Lonely Los Angeles” was chosen as the cover of the November 2014 issue of Artforum.

Here are some Bruce Nauman tags: eclectic, outsider, anti-art, inventive, post-studio. A California-based artist of the '60s who did video, sound art, installation, and neon, and was late being grouped with any movement (hence the outsider part). By the '90s, however, he was art world royalty, embraced by almost every critic and institution. An artist's artist who became everyone's artist.

Lonergan is inventive, eclectic, and somehow avoided the "post-internet" dragnet. After 2010 or so he may or may not have stopped working, but certainly wasn't being included in that many "new media" shows. His ARTnews diary shows that he is working and thinking -- yet the projects aren't coming to fruition as gallery-packageable products.

If he is "our" Bruce Nauman, who is the "our"? Besides Cory Arcangel. If the "we" refers to "we new media and computer artists," do "we" need a Bruce Nauman? Aren't "we" already all post-studio, eclectic, inventive, anti-art outsiders? Does it help "our" standing in the gallery world to be seen as the latest iterations of Bruce Nauman, rather than something unique and difficult to define in the terms of "their" critical sphere?

we'll know an artistic nude when we see one

Re: Google's draconian plan to determine what's a dirty picture and what isn't on Blogger, and block public access to the blogs its staffers determine are nasty.
What's going on here? An uneducated guess is that once the offending sites are tucked away, Google will incorporate Blogger blogs into Google+, its struggling Facebook clone, so it can have an advertising-palooza with all those new family members.
Google bought Blogger in 2003. If I'd been a Blogger user, I would have left then, rather than wait 12 years for Google to start doing horrible stuff to me.

Update: According to Lauren Weinstein, Google is "completely rescinding" its Blogger nude suppression policy, a move Weinstein calls "gutsy." Am not sure if the mere reversal of a gutless policy merits that adjective.

livin' lonergan

Guthrie Lonergan's take on life, art, and the web always bears investigation whether or not he is your Bruce Nauman.*
ARTnews recently published a diary of Lonergan's typical work week, as he moves back and forth between day job and art job (denoted by lighting and unlighting an "art candle" in his home work space).
The main point for me is that he is not on Facebook and provides a blueprint for how to be an engaged "computer" or "new media" artist while living outside of the current Silicon Valley-asserted lifestyle (that is, being on your phone all day checking out "social").

Things Lonergan mentioned that I knew about and/or find interesting:
Richard Stallman
Hacker News
YouTube Guitar Center customers video
Critique of JACK FM
using bluetooth external keyboard to type on phone

Things I could care less about:
humidified guitar cabinets
Perfect Boomer CD Collection pt. 1 (1985-1995)
late-career Joni Mitchell
contemporary Bro-Country playlist

Things I'm not interested in that Lonergan made sound interesting:
Super Bowl halftime show lineups
Bing Streetside van (I almost typed "streetwise")
History of MTV Unplugged

*As quoted in Artforum, Cory Arcangel pompously called Lonergan "our Bruce Nauman" -- a use of first-person plural further ingratiating Arcangel into a gallery-based art world that continues to revere Nauman as a conceptualist living legend, all out of proportion to his actual artwork. [Update -- more on this "our Bruce Nauman" business.]