Did you ever wonder what happened to all the gif animations that sparkled in the dawn of the internet? According to artists Greg Niemeyer and Olya Dubatova, they have become part of the digital subconscious, and BAMPFA is presenting what that might look like in an exhibit called gifCollider. Niemeyer studied both archive.org's collections of gif animations and film archives from the 1950's. He noticed how the film archives, which include ads, educational films and propaganda show a heavy gender and race bias. In comparison, the gif animations reflect less gender and race bias, but with more historical distance, we can't help but wonder wonder what kinds of bias will become obvious in the future. What don't we know now that will be obvious in 50 years?
In October 2016, BAMPFA invited the public to ponder these questions as thousands of gif animations will emerge and collide on the public outdoor screen in a ballet of memory and erasure. Call it an "outstallation". The gifs were presented in 10 chapters, playing for 30 minutes on every hour.
Every gif is an icon of an emotion. Pride, ridicule, sorrow, love, anger, hope... each gif is a public and mechanical reenactment of an emotion, an automatic feeling. archive.org's collection of 4.5 million gif animations from the troves of geocities.com brings up many questions about the history of the internet. Saved from the brink of deletion, these early gifs from 1996 to 2003 show how members of the geocities public built on each other's ideas, pixel by pixel, to give their feelings looping forms. GIF evolved from early animations into emojis and video-based gifs. The ever-growing fascination with the loop as a way to focus attention has historical roots, which gifCollider presents in a nearly geological format. Find your own gif at archive.org's gifcities!
Léa Perraudin, a visiting scholar at the Berkeley Center for New Media, proposes that gifCollider is an example of what Deleuze and Guattari call stratification. She sees gifCollider as an archive in a transgressed state, where the GIF images condense into a digital sediment. The digital sedimnet consists of fading traces of images. The fact that the images fade rematerializes them into something other than an abstraction and evoke the physical effort of maintaining any information. The material sediment is a structure upon which future emanations of information technology and social media are erected. Her full essay is linked here.
Patrick Trinh aka Space Town and Trevor Bajus made music for different Chapters of gifCollider, which are posted here.
The process of making media art is often iterative. Niemeyer and the team created over 30 beta versions of gifCollider before arriving at the form presented at BAMPFA in October 2016. The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life commissioned a second version of gifCollider, "The Night Vision", for the "Power of Attention" Exhibit running through 2017. This version includes animations of a menorah design.
Special Thanks to Perrin Meyer from Meyer Sound for supporting the gifCollider project with sound and music advice.