"Artforum and e-flux are pleased to announce the launch of the Art & Education Papers archive, a new global platform for sharing and distributing research and knowledge in the field of contemporary art."
The Art & Education Papers archive has published an academic-style essay I wrote on the Affect of Animated GIFs, featuring work by Tom Moody, Petra Cortright and Lorna Mills. Check it out here.

- sally mckay 9-17-2009 2:20 pm

That got me thinking about the similarities of animated GIFs and animated neon- neon in its heyday(from the 20s to the 50s) had a similar combination of low frame rate and popular creation/consumption. Signs were cafte-made, and viewed by average folks. Of course, the high cost of production was the limiting factor- each "frame" cost thousands of dollars, so there was pressure to solve aesthetic problems economically. Look here at about 14:35 and compare with Tom Moody's piece.
Also, lookit this:
And this is very interesting- a blogger noticing an error in the animation of the famous Anheuser-Busch eagle sign, and using animated GIFs to demonstrate it to the signs's owners!


- rob (guest) 9-17-2009 6:33 pm

I mean craft-made.
- rob (guest) 9-17-2009 6:33 pm

Oh, and the first link is this:

- rob (guest) 9-17-2009 6:34 pm

Nice links Rob, and I like the connection you are making. I do think (some) people have a taste for animation with gaps in it.
- sally mckay 9-17-2009 10:49 pm

Great article sal.
I too was thinking about early animations as a tie in. You mention Johns as an artworld referent to Moody's piece, which is true, but I was thinking that Otto Fischinger might be even more relevant. But you know what? maybe not.
We all love early Fischinger now for the hand-made feel. But at the time this was pretty high tech stuff. Moody's hand made feel is a deliberate denial of the technology, Fischinger's is a result of being able to look back from the future.
I'm going to make a moody - johns - Fischinger Vin diagram, that should help explain things.

- joester (guest) 9-18-2009 5:52 pm

Please animate the promised Vin diagram.
- L.M. 9-18-2009 5:58 pm

Thanks Joester. Here's Joe's link: Homage to Otto Fischinger by donjuanauxenfers

And while we're at it, let's not forget Duchamp.

- sally mckay 9-18-2009 6:35 pm

I was just showing a student those duchamp animations and I got the horrifying "who is Duchamp" look.
- joester (guest) 9-18-2009 6:51 pm

• open source free software built into the aesthetic of the work
• economy of size to create the work
• most modern browsers can play back the work

The learning curve is a lot steeper of course, but I still think they are much more gif-like than flash animations.
- joester (guest) 9-18-2009 6:52 pm

Crap, I sent before I wanted to

that last post was to be comparing gifs to Rhizome's Tiny sketch competition.

Vote early and vote often btw. I have the only playable games up there.
- joester (guest) 9-18-2009 6:54 pm

Tiny Sketch Competition is here
- sally mckay 9-18-2009 6:57 pm

"Deliberate denial of technology" is a bit harsh for me--it was more (i) liking the feel of MSPaintbrush and wanting to make moving versions of stuff I'd been drawing and (ii) limiting myself to what would load super-fast for someone looking at my blog with a dial-up Net connection (the slowest common denominator). Deliberate denial of the Adobe/Apple "smoothed pixel" look wouldn't be too unfair as a background consideration.
- tom moody 9-18-2009 11:16 pm

I have expressed my appreciation for the essay elsewhere but let me say it again here--good job! Not much theory on this subject and we need it. (Before Adobe/Apple conspire to remove GIF-reading from all browsers including even the popular open source ones.)
- tom moody 9-18-2009 11:23 pm

- tom moody 9-19-2009 2:54 pm

nice jaggedy pixels!
- sally mckay 9-19-2009 5:05 pm

Okay, maybe a bit harsh. But your reasons for doing then are not the same as the reasons for still doing it now. Or are they? The install base is moving.

- joester (guest) 9-23-2009 8:31 pm

the dial-up bandwidth frame is now only symbolic?
- bill 9-23-2009 8:43 pm

I wouldn't say that's the case just yet, although it's becoming that way in the urban centers.
But every computer can display millions of colours, and has a sh&t load of RAM. Every browser can display PNG, and has java.
- joester (guest) 9-23-2009 10:40 pm

My reasons haven't changed. I have friends and relatives with dialup who I'd like to have see my page without mysterious gaps, or popups telling them to add more software. My w*rkplace browser is Windows, always several versions behind, and doesn't recognize certain kinds of addons and downloads. It cannot read, say, what's on the current few pages of nasty nets without freezes and gaps. My blog page, by contrast, loads whole and loads fast. There is a difference between denying technology and denying to the urge to add tons of RAM, features, bells, and whistles "because we can." When you add RAM you have corporate teams sitting around thinking of "cool" ways to use the RAM and they're usually anything but cool. The point I've been making, and this has been consistent, is that you can find amusement on the web with just text and some low-res image files--you don't need it to be TV.

There are ecological reasons for this as well. A friend of mine works for a college and knows the info systems guy there. He is constantly undershooting the estimates of server and storage capacity he has to build out, which devour space and power. He can't help being bugged knowing that a huge percentage of his bandwidth is people posting and viewing YouTubes of dogs playing with their new chew toys. "Because we can" is going to get the species in trouble--think locally, etc.
- tom moody 9-24-2009 1:20 pm

And Sally, you should know your article was reblogged in Germany with the caption:

"Kunsthistoriker-Hypnose durch MS-Paint blingbling"

- tom moody 9-24-2009 2:53 pm

Sorry to paint you (and Lorna and Petra) with a Kunsthistoriker brush! It'll pass.
- sally mckay 9-24-2009 3:06 pm

I probably shouldn't say Ow--the same blog has a post about an "emoticon resurgence" with some allover patterns that are pretty tasty.
- tom moody 9-24-2009 3:11 pm

I was going to tattoo Kunsthistoriker on my forehead until I checked it on babelfish and discovered that it was a horrible German insult.
- L.M. 9-24-2009 3:58 pm

I remember having a conversation years ago with Tom (or maybe it was Joester) about the somewhat sickening aesthetic effect of 'tweening' in Flash. I had a phone conversation with someone the other day who said it wasn't til she saw L.M.'s post on Luke Painter that she really understood what I'd meant in the paper about the "jerky" motion of animated gifs. Flash takes that space between frames and smooths it all out. But somehow the sense of it being unspecified motion still comes through and it's perceptually unsettling. The thing I like about Painter's use of Flash is that he makes that gooey feeling into an aesthetic strength.
- sally mckay 9-24-2009 4:34 pm

Yes--I guess because the animations are so clearly fanciful/surreal the weirdness of the motion is accounted for.
Joe is right about Oskar Fischinger being state of the art back in the day and if we are appreciating him now as charmingly jerky we're retro-reading.
But whether OF intended it or not, his work is great because you get a sense of how it was made and what his thought processes are from frame to frame. "Gaps in motion" isn't the only way to make animation but it is a good way. "Period limitations" becomes one more aesthetic choice we can make. I think Sally hits it with the minimalism/truth to materials connection. (For me anyway.) Why use 20 frames when 6 will get the idea across?
- tom moody 9-24-2009 5:00 pm

Also--I think your tweening discussion was with Joe but I concur, generally.
- tom moody 9-24-2009 5:07 pm

The extra frames are like "grey goo" in nanotechnology.
- tom moody 9-24-2009 5:08 pm

One thing I liked about Sal's approach that was missing in other discussions of GIFs is that she didn't labour the retro aspect of them, because it's not an interest of mine. GIF animations are so congenial to me because I find viewing films frame by frame much more formally interesting than looking at the perfect illusion of motion that they result in. The looping gifs also allow for variations in rhythm, in fact rhythm is more apparent with the medium.

I'm also in agreement with Tom on the advantage of instant play and browser support. (a download or an extra link just tries my patience these days) Open source makes it great too. (though I can usually rip off and crack a flash movie, not everyone has the software for that)
- L.M. 9-24-2009 6:17 pm

Also the joys of early mid-century animations are the the incredible economy of motion and image, Bugs Bunny rocks.
- L.M. 9-24-2009 6:19 pm

Another precedent that should be mentioned is Extreme LED Sheep Art.
- tom moody 9-25-2009 2:59 pm

Still pretending he doesn't know about "blogs" and "threads," joester posted this elsewhere:

Tom, I have trouble swallowing the Gif as an ecological stance. I think the environmental issues in computing are up against similar problems as the automotive industry. Newer cars are cleaner, but it means more bloody cars. My latest macBook (thank you SUNY Purchase) is way better than my last machine (LED display primarily).
New computers run cooler, quieter, on less power, and give off less radiation, with each generation.
The animated Gif may require less server space than some Flash animations, but all of those Processing sketches on rhizome are just code - way smaller than a gif. Newer does not always mean larger.
My point is - yes, they are thinking up "cool" ways to suck up the newer processor speed and ram, and yes those things almost always suck. But not completely always, this was as true in 1987 as it is today.

My reply:

That's great if hardware is becoming more efficient but my point is software bloats to take advantage of the extra space and speed. There's no revolution in thinking about software efficiency. Windows Vista had something like 50 million lines of code and still cut loose legacy programs. Supposedly the heat signature for the Google server farms (simmering with the cat videos of millions) looks like magma pools to infrared surveillance satellites, in relation to surrounding blackness. I'm comparing a 50KB GIF to the increasingly standard 100 MB movie clip and you're telling me about a few high-end users who know how to use less kilobytes. I'm on the losing side of this argument, though. Content will keep expanding with Moore's Law until the day the power runs out and everyone says "Wha' happened?"

- tom moody 9-26-2009 6:53 pm

He definitely doesn't know about the "a href" tag because I always go into his comments and add the links.
- L.M. 9-26-2009 7:03 pm

Dang. I'm happy to give up my car (okay...I don't have a car) but I'm not ready to give up online kitty videos!
- sally mckay 9-26-2009 7:11 pm

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