Twenty-five years ago, a man by the name of Steve Wilhite, a programmer at CompuServe, wanted to devise a way that companies could display color weather maps online. To accomplish this, he created something called the Graphics Interchange Format, or the GIF. The GIF, despite being around longer than most people who actively use it, has had a hell of a couple of years, inspiring blogs, being used as a legitimate (at least in some camps) storytelling device for media outlets and inspiring Moving the Still, an Art Basel show completely dedicated to the art of the GIF.
Because of all of the sudden fame and fortune of the GIF, Wilhite was honored with that most prestigious of honors, a lifetime achievement award at the Webby Awards, an annual celebration of all things Internet. When asked about his honor and his creation by the NYT (ON IT!), Wilhite said he was still "annoyed" that there was a debate over the pronunciation:
“The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Mr. Wilhite told the NYT. “They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”
This news will be marginally important to designers, programmers and those on either side of the GIF debate, a few of whom took to Twitter yesterday to tell Wilhite they will still continue to use the hard-"g" pronunciation. But the creator has spoken, thus ending one of the most aggravating and ultimately pointless debates of the modern era. We will now express our feelings over all this madness, and in tribute to Wilhite and his creation, with a series of GIFs.
Uh, guess this wasn’t a scathing April Fool’s joke: BAM is really going to showcase a real exhibit of real GIFs, really! It’s called “Moving the Still” and I’m sure it’ll be somehow completely different from scrolling through a few days’ worth of a Tumblr dashboard, so get on it.
The Daily News reports:
A series of 50 moving digital photos, all in Graphics Interchange Format, culled from over 3,500 online entries, will be displayed for three months on BAM’s giant digital screen on Flatbush Avenue.
Bet they’re all from Parks & Recreation, am I right? Also: holy shit, that’s what GIF stands for? It sounds so futuristically alien when you spell it out.
Oh, but the GIFs will not be framed in a gallery, sadly, just blown up on a BAM’s giant outdoor digital screen on Flatbush Avenue—like so many Madison Square Garden ads for Muse in concert. When will this precious art form get its due? Once they’ve outlived their practical utility.
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Hey gang, I really love your Parks and Rec subtitle GIF photoset on your Tumblrs, and, man, that scene from Community was sooooo funny and all, but until you start GOING INTO FUCKING OUTER SPACE, I think we could all use a break from your guerilla marketing campaign for poorly rated NBC sitcoms. Oh, what’s that? A GIF of Honey Boo Boo drinking juice? Yeah, well, here’s an animated GIF of The Pelican Nebula, so, you know, shut up about your looping silent video of a clip from a reality TV show, OK?
See more of these amazing images by Finnish astrophotographer J-P Metsavainio here. [via B. Michael Payne]
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You may have noticed that there are a lot of Tumblrs out there with the exact same concept. Each starts with a notion that the blog will be about something specific—say, working in the publishing industry, or as a stripper. The posts themselves then describe common events in that line of work—say, "When a book becomes a bestseller," or, "When a customer tips with a two-dollar bill." These little conditionals are then supplemented with the same tired-ass GIFs we’ve been looking at for years now, as if they are any sort of punchline. So to save you some time, here are all of those blogs condensed.
WHEN JERRY SEINFELD HAS HAD ENOUGH
WHEN A CAT OVERESTIMATES ITS HORIZONTAL JUMP
WHEN CARL SAGAN THINKS YOU’RE AWESOME
WHEN PARKS & RECREATION IS STILL ON THE AIR
WHEN MARK WAHLBERG IS IN A TERRIBLE MOVIE
WHEN THE COOKIE MONSTER HAS A GIANT COOKIE WITH OTHER COOKIES ON IT PLACED IN FRONT OF HIM
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It’s been a banner year for the quarter-century-old medium that is the Graphic Interchange Format. Thanks to Tumblr and other blogging and aggregation sites, the animated GIF is no longer merely the bouncing, bejeweled cartoon that accompanies a MIDI of “The Hampster Dance” [sic], but the visual storytelling medium du jour (Emojis remain a close second, although they’re definitely poised to overtake in 2013). Blogs like What Should We Call Me and its many regional and professional equivalents have dedicated countless hours to finding the perfect looped mini-animation from Arrested Development or SpongeBob SquarePants to capture the precise emotion of running into your crush at the gym or studying for the Bar Exam. Tumblr live-GIF’d a Presidential debate. Some band put out an animated GIF EP. Chances are you’ve had at least one heated conversation today over how to pronounce it (it’s with a soft “g,” like the peanut butter).
And as the Internet still determines its best practices for using this sometimes amusing but overhyped medium, the art world is catching on, too. Tumblr and Paddle8 are joining forces for Moving the Still, an art exhibition celebrating a quarter-century of animated GIFs. Fans of the medium can submit their GIFs (and explore some already posted by a host of artists) on the Moving the Still website through November 7th, after which they will be at the mercy of an illustrious selection committee. And whom do you recruit to judge the artists participating in a GIF showcase? Among them, (former) R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, the Rodarte Sisters, author James Frey and artist Ryan Trecartin. Winners will be announced November 26th and have the opportunity to showcase their animations during Art Basel Miami Beach in December.
Here’s hoping that BlackBook senior editor Tyler Coates submits an interpretation of his standby GIF of choice to the festival.
Well, since the internet has reduced our attention spans to three-second loops of silent video with optional subtitles, it seems only right that Tumblr is planning to "Live-GIF" the presidential debates, the first of which air tomorrow night.
Per the Tumblr staff’s blog:
This Wednesday evening marks the first presidential debate for the 2012 American elections. Elevating the discourse as only Tumblr can, we’ll have a crack team of GIF artists cranking out instant animations of the best debate moments, from zingers to gaffes to awkward silences.
As much as I love Tumblr and its staff (and, on occasion, animated .GIFs), nothing has made me roll my eyes harder today than the concept of making animated .GIFs of two politicians standing at podiums, reading from note cards, and emphatically pointing at each other. Such a dynamic and engaging way to elevate political discourse! Unless kittens run across the stage or Mitt Romney faints, I can’t imagine that the caliber of .GIFs such as the one below (and the rest to be found on Gifwich) will be changing the hearts and minds of anyone watching the debates, or whatever it’s supposed to be doing. (I, for one, will be glad when this national bloggy love affair with the animated .GIF cools down, because I haven’t been so bored with a collective obsession since the year that everyone on the internet discovered that bacon is delicious.)
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It’s Friday afternoon. My brain has stopped working. Getting a press release about a "Tumblr-obsessed" musical group and their "fun, .GIF animated full EP stream" has not helped me any. Come with me, children, on a magical journey into my own madness.
From the inbox!
Excited to begin working with rising LA-based duo He Met Her, who just released their debut EP, ‘Crime Novela,’ described by MTV as "throwback disco-pop with a secret, carefully hidden hip-hop heart." The Tumblr-obsessed group created a fun, .GIF animated full EP stream showing their playful interplay – as vivacious as their sound – and you can see one of the images included here. The HTML5-constructed ‘musical lookbook’ is optimized for iPad and mobile viewing. For the rest of the .GIF set, go here: http://www.crimenovela.com/
In keeping with the theme, here is how my mind reacted to that email: