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An Inside Look Into GIF Art, The Medium Of Our Generation

Enter into a whole new world of GIF art.

by Edoardo Liotta
29 March 2019, 8:26am

Photography by Edoardo Liotta

If you go onto social media right now, chances are you will encounter a GIF in no time. They are on every platform and have become a part of our everyday online rhetoric. They are used as reactions, memes, or even messages on their own when words are just not enough.

But for now, let's forget the GIFs we use to decorate our Instagram stories and step into the world of GIF making.

GIF art is not just a phase, but in many ways, a medium of our generation. Spanning from the days of Tumblr’s peak, to everyone’s Twitter feed today – their ubiquity proves that GIFs are here to stay. Although limited in length, GIFs give us an insight into the most colourful and weird parts of people’s brains.

Have you ever wondered about who actually makes these GIFs? What’s the creation process like? And how the twerking cockroach GIF came to be?

At Singapore’s Noise Gif Fest 2019, we got the chance to meet a few GIF artists and ask them about the art form.

Here is what we discovered:

GIF Making Is A Form Of Escapism For Creatives

Wait, creatives need a break from… being creative? They sure do, and that’s what has made GIF making so popular in the community. A lot of the Singaporean GIF artists that submitted pieces work full time in creative agencies, advertising firms or as freelancers. Despite using their artsy skills on the job, they don’t get to flex the wild side of their brains that tell them anything is possible. That is why you see a lot of trippy, surreal GIFs out there: it’s the visual output of all the built-up tension creatives face in their daily lives.

Dianna, who started out as an illustrator, told VICE: “There is no story to my work. It just is what it is. I don’t feel like I need to rationalize what I want to do. This is the first time I’m an actual artist because usually, I’m designing for someone. It’s very liberating, especially when my job gets tiring. It allows me to be my own artist.”

GIF artist Lindsey Ng told us that even when it comes to commissioned pieces, the weirder the GIF, the better: “I was in video-production for a while, and I was doing something for comedy central's April fools, and they needed something for a channel bug. They kept rejecting everything I was submitting. I got so fed up that I just started designing a twerking cockroach, and they loved it and asked for more of it.”

Its A Medium Without A Set Medium

So, what is a GIF exactly? Well, they’re not an image, but not a video either. And they can come from any art form really. A GIF can be made from a painting, a film or clay even. And no, Google’s definition isn’t very helpful either: “a lossless format for image files that supports both animated and static images.”

The endless possibilities the artform offers is what makes the pieces so intriguing. “I like to create things that are surreal to look at. If it’s going to exist in a digital realm, there is no need for realism. You also have to utilize what makes the medium special, which is its moving factor,” Howie Kim said. “The piece I submitted started out as a film photograph but alone it was so boring, so I had a look at it and saw what I could draw and add to it, incorporating the movements and loops to make it fun and exciting.”

GIFs Are Very Satisfying And Can Be Therapeutic

If you are a fan of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) triggering videos that have become widely popular, you may want to start looking at GIFs.

GIFs have a surreal and sometimes trippy aesthetic, and because they loop on for an eternity, they can be really satisfying to stare at. Lindsey submitted a piece that was made to give viewers an instant sense of gratification. About the piece, she shared, “When you are watching channels that introduce food from other countries, sometimes you just wish you could grab a bite out of the TV screen. So I thought I could give people that satisfaction with a GIF.”

Although not a deeply explored topic, the escapist element of GIF art can also provide momentary psychological relief to both the artists and viewer. Ella Zheng, who started out as an illustrator, told VICE how last year’s contribution of hers was a way of dealing with her mental health: “When I submitted to GIF fest last year, I was going through a period of depression and self-doubt. I decided to create a piece that sucks you in for that moment and allows you not to think of anything else and just enjoy it.”

Anyone Can Be A Gif Artist

Are you ever about to post a selfie on your story, when you decide to add a few GIFs, but then you go overboard and in no time you have made a post so glittery it blinds you? If you answered yes, then you can consider yourself a GIF artist. Don’t fret, the artists do it themselves too: “When I'm bored, I like to do this thing where I take GIFS that are for Instagram stories and layer them until they become a piece of their own” said Howie. “If a selfie can be artwork on its own, then why not?”

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Tagged:
Animation
mental health
Festival
Singapore
Trippy
asmr
Gif