GIF theory, but mostly concerning frame-grab GIFs

Ryder Ripps hopes that GIF fetishization will end this year -- well and good but as a GIF appreciator a few years ago, he's a bit like the 1973 Pink Floyd fan whose favorite psych group suddenly went platinum with Dark Side of the Moon -- nothing is ever as cool once it's popular.
Meanwhile theory is struggling to catch up with what "GIF culture" even means. Three essays from the 2011 - 2013 period (which I only just focused on) fixate almost entirely on "remix" or "frame grab" GIFs, interpreting clips from movies and TV shows; none considers the GIF type I'm probably most intrigued by, which is frame-by-frame animation of original drawings. Daniel Rourke defines "art gifs" as fancier frame grab GIFs that use high resolution. To me an "art gif" is a low res abstraction or cartoon graphic that has almost no reference to, or is actively against, video and photography.

Morgan Quaintance's 2013 Frieze article, A Brief History of the Gif, considers the issue of taste and defines GIF culture as an exercise in camp a la Susan Sontag's "Notes on Camp" essay:

...As Susan Sontag wrote: ‘the lover of camp appreciates vulgarity […] sniffs the stink and prides himself on his strong nerves.’ This line is from a key section in Sontag’s famous 1964 essay ‘Notes on Camp’, in which she argues that the ‘lover of camp in the age of mass culture’ is the modern incarnation of the dandy. While the dandy sought rarefied experience as a remedy for boredom, the lover of camp appreciates ‘the coarsest, commonest pleasures, in the arts of the masses’. If, as I’m suggesting, camp is the dominant sensibility of the web, then GIF appreciation – as an ennui suppressant accessed through exposure to the coarsest, most common produce of mass culture – might be the answer to this question: how to be a dandy in the information age?

My Psychotronic GIFs essay for Art F City in 2008 also considered bad taste as an oppositional or distancing device but I used only one or two "frame grab" examples; I was mostly interested in drawing (computer drawing in particular).

Quaintance cites two essays, Giampaolo Bianconi's GIFABILITY (Rhizome, 2012) and Rourke's The Doctrine of the Similar (GIF GIF GIF) (MachineMachine, 2011). Again, both of these are focused on GIFs as sampling or appropriation, although Rourke gives a few examples of original animation (mostly in what he calls the "classic" category). It's unfortunate that for all these writers GIFs came of age only when they were able to imitate video!

Curbed Convolution (new Bandcamp release)

Am pleased to announce a new Bandcamp release titled Curbed Convolution.

Liner notes by "Ralph Frisson, Unfrozen Jazz Critic":

The redacted particles of modern music ... No vocals (this is not Phil Collins) ... Puns, applied repetition ...Cultivated noise blasts and fragments of rave dreams ... Arithmetical organization, no hidden tricks, every track and decision is audible ... Groovebox paradiddles ... Bass so deep it can't be heard on your phone or laptop ... Punk atavism ... Synth modules, default beats from pricy hobby kaffeeklatches ... Concise, no elaboration or indulgent jamming ... This is ... Curbed Convolution.

Your support in the form of buying the LPs or songs is very encouraging, but all the material can be streamed. A cassette version is available!

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pro-TPP propaganda

Check out this propaganda image from Sen. John Thune in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty, an agreement with Pacific states (other than China) that Pres. Obama is trying to ram through Congress*:


Note that there are no people in this image, only shipping containers. That says much about the treaty (Naomi Klein: "It’s the latest and largest in a series of international agreements that have attacked working women and men, fueled mindless and carbon-intensive consumption, and prevented governments from enforcing their own laws to cut greenhouse gas emissions.") Lambert Strether of Corrente contrasts Thune's artistic style, which he calls Neoliberal Realism, with an example of Socialist Realism, an equally false vision but one that at least acknowledges the existence of workers:


Strether adds:

I don't think it's too much of a stretch to see Thune's Orwellianly-sized slogan text "Trade Promotion Authority for a Strong America" as a proxy for the treaty text of TPP itself ("the rules"), which, although secret, will have a powerful effect on the material reality within Thune's world --and ours -- just as much as as the pictured container cranes, container ships, and the hidden commodities themselves. In fact, Thune's tweet says as much ["Renewing TPA helps ensure America, not China, writes the rules on trade deals. #TPA4USjobs and a stronger America."] "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality," as "a senior advisor to Bush" famously said, although not of trade.

*Under the US constitution treaties are the "supreme law of the land," requiring a 2/3 vote of Congress. Obama is asking for so-called fast track authority (Thune's "trade promotion authority"), described by the Wikipedians as follows:

The fast track negotiating authority for trade agreements is the authority of the President of the United States to negotiate international agreements that Congress can approve or disapprove but cannot amend or filibuster. Also called trade promotion authority (TPA) since 2002, fast track negotiating authority is a temporary and controversial power granted to the President by Congress. The authority was in effect from 1975 to 1994, pursuant to the Trade Act of 1974, and from 2002 to 2007 by the Trade Act of 2002. Although it expired for new agreements on July 1, 2007, it continued to apply to agreements already under negotiation until they were eventually passed into law in 2011. In 2012, the Obama administration began seeking renewal of the authority.

Trade agreements such as TPP establish arbitration panels with the power to compel actions from member governments. Thus, if a foreign or multinational corporation objects to, say, a state environmental initiative, it can drag the state into a costly arbitration proceeding because it has interfered with the holy right of "trade." Naomi Klein, in her book This Changes Everything, gives the example of a solar initiative in Ontario that was shuttered because its requirements of a percentage of locally sourced labor and materials "discriminated against" foreign traders. Obama claims the TPP doesn't directly trump US law but critics say the threat of TPP legal action will have a chilling effect on budget-conscious states and municipalities. The terms of the TPP are being negotiated in secret but Obama says we should trust him, just as we trusted him to close the Guantanamo torture facility. He wouldn't put the interests of multinationals ahead of ours, would he?