GG_sm Lorna Mills and Sally McKay

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Lorna Mills: Artworks / Persona Volare / contact

Sally McKay: GIFS / cv and contact

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English transcript of interview of Lorna Mills by Pilar Díez for her GIFmondo series for the Spanish publication

First of all: can you tell us a bit about your background, artistic way or style and a little presentation of who Lorna Mills is?

I'm a Canadian artist, with exhibitions in a wide variety of mediums since the early 90's. Painting, video, installation, photo-based, super 8 film, whatever I feel I need to use at any given point in time. I'm also a children's educational game-programmer since 1994 and recently I've worked editing video for iPhone and iPad delivery as well as IPTV (internet protocol television). Whatever we call style, the way things look, depends on the tools I'm using.

When I worked with film, many years ago, right after art school, I was entranced by the sequences of still images rather than the illusions of motion. This made editing film much more interesting to me than thinking about the conventions of shooting it. I used to shoot super 8 films of television, mostly sports because of all the particular structures and rules of games had rhythms for me and I'd apply these strange math formulas to the sequences of images. It was absolutely unwatchable, most of the time the films just broke in the projector from all the splices, and that in itself was a small mercy to anyone who was forced to watch them.

As years went by you seemed to prefer using GIF than video (probably your first animation tool), what advantages does have this format comparing to video? Could your work have changed if you would have continue using video? What are de reasons that make you decide what kind of format are you going to use?

Fair questions, my video work, before I discovered GIFs, was already short if not down right abrupt. Whenever my artist friends ask me to view one of their art videos I always ask if it's a short video. Short art video is good art video. I was uncomfortable with video screening and always preferred to exhibit in a manner that allowed the viewer to disengage gracefully. It's easier to walk away from a video installation than it is to quietly leave a screening. I didn't like using sound and couldn't bring myself to use other people's music very often as a unifying structure so I was really imposing a lot of limitations on the video process.

I had been aware of net artists previously working with gifs, but so much attention was paid to graphic tools rather than photo-sources at the time, so it hadn't occurred to me that I wanted to make them myself until I discovered sites like 4Chan and b3ta (in the UK) and fell in love with the irreverence, cruelty, sentimentality, awkwardness and wit that you find in what I'd call crowd-sourced/video sourced imagery.

The advantages of gifs to on-line videos is the instant play in the browser and the ease of distribution and theft. The conditions around posting gifs online, compression, colour limitations, small number of frames and perpetual looping went into making my work what it looks like now, so even when I dump gifs back to video for projection projects, they are still gifs to me. (many artists disagree with me on this) My work would never have looked like this if I had simply used video from the start.

If you look at your projects for the first time it is easy to think that your work is a kind of messy and chaotic vomit about your interests and fetishism from the net but a second gaze made me realize about a aesthetic and clear artistic intention with a very defined and personal language and personality (pixelate outlines, fast movements, annoying and bizarre animal, sex, masturbation scenes, sarcasm and a lot of sense of humour).

That made me laugh, because I am ravingly formal and precise with all my choices, placement and timing. I can spend hours shifting things one pixel at a time until it balances out to my satisfaction. I just provide an unusual entrance to those formal concerns. My slap-stick sensibility is very deceptive.

Do you think it is more difficult to built an artistic identity based on pre-existing material (images, viral videos, other gifs...)?

Not at all, the tradition of collage work has been around for a long time.

Do you use some personal self-made material such as images or videos of your own?

Yes I do, gifs from my own video sources have a different tone to them, they are less gregarious than the publicly sourced images.

Do you think that collage-GIF-artists are less easy to recognize as artists? I mean the ones who use pre existing material such as Anthony Antonellis, Helen Adamidou, etc.

Again, not at all. I could tell they were artists (and definitely artists I was interested in) the first time I saw their work.

Collage of cinema, TV, music videos..... are very popular on the mainstream net. What differences do you see between your work and the massive and recreational (non professional or artistic) GIF movement on the net?

Good question because I am less interested in using the recognisable pop sources for my collaged gifs, I enjoy them, of course, but references to particular movies or music videos are not an important aspect to my work. When I do use them, it is generally inadvertently. (I don't know every meme on the web) I prefer gifs from home videos, nature shows and more obscure, sad & dark sources. I'm pretty sure that when you stick my work into the general mainstream of gifs, it sticks out as something different.

During my personal researching about GIF art I've discovered that there are some photographers like Jaime Beck, Marcel Meyer, Jaime Martínez, Josh Greet, Ignacio Torres, Ana Pais, Pamela Reed, Matthew Rader..... that uses GIF format to show their work... Is there a big line between this kind of GIF and your work? It looks like they have another different dilemmas than GIF artists... Probably another category inside GIF mondo?

Yes there's a line. (In all fairness I'm not familiar with all the artists you just listed) Although I love gimmicks, I find a lot of it just too precious and gimmickry should never take itself too seriously. The animated images were named 'cinemagraphs' to distinguish them from the general tacky rabble of gif makers and to indicate their Himalayan heights of artistry and refinement. Paddy Johnson hilariously refers to them as 'hair gifs' A lot of it really just functions as fashion photography. (I prefer to metaphorically roll in the muck with the horny puppies humping chickens.)

I did post an altered cinemagraph a while back But if you use it, the original photographer would probably sue you, I suspect that they aren't sympathetic to remix culture. (I thought perhaps I would open up a Cinemagraph Clinic. People could send me their gentle, wistful portraits with animated locks of hair and I could add masturbating penguins in similar colour tones).

Coincidently, Tom Moody had used the same cinemagraph in a post that blasted the pretensions of the medium. (if you haven't spoken to, or read, Tom Moody, you really should, we are rarely in agreement over most things in the universe, but he's a good writer with a sharp eye and a long practise & association with gif making).

That said, a few artists have made cinemagraphs that I like: Chris Collins' water tap is hypnotic and funny - how will it end?: and Michael Manning's model on the catwalk looks like her stomach is full of wiggling worms. (so never say never) In a superficially similar vein, David Crawford's Stop Motion Studies are brilliant in my opinion and he started his project in 2002. The really good news is that there's an Android and iPhone app called Cinemagram, so now the filthy mob can make the "magical images" too. (I'm also a big fan of sites like GIFsoup, Blingee, 3frames and gifboom, they are full of ridiculous treasures.)

The other kind of device used by some of the artists you listed is called stereography, it's an illusionary form that's been around for a long time. I've seen a few stereographs that I found interesting as contemporary art, and there's nothing a good artist can't use to some advantage.

My all time favourite digital trick is the animated water reflection. I've never made one myself because I feel I am not worthy, but I did collect them for a while.

Speaking of cinemagraphs... do you think there is a general trend on arts but also in personal and social matters to a fussy, censorship attitude with some topics of your work or other artists (sex, violence, masturbation, nudism...)? Why do you think this happens?

Transgression is always welcome in art. (however, art isn't always welcome everywhere)

It looks that there is a familiar and friendly feeling between almost all gif artists and a lot of communication: Is this real or only the front of the scene? do you think this makes the gif scene more likeliness? Do you think there is someone who stays offside?

It's not one scene, there are many clusters of artists who are enjoying each other's work, communicating in social media and collaborating on projects. If you have the choice, why wouldn't you work with energetic people you admire, and can easily connect with, as opposed to idiots you can't stand? Artists in any medium seem to get better exposure when they work in teams, crews, or pair up. For some strange reason, artists making gifs are the flavour of the month, but there's a huge range of really good on-line art projects that probably aren't as easy for potential audiences or participants to find an entrance into. (But , anyway, all of our work is one blown fuse away from irrelevance.)

- L.M. 6-13-2012 2:27 am [link] [2 refs] [3 comments]