2010 is the year of the animated gif. They are everywhere. Tumblr’s Three Frames, a site that posts only gifs drawn from movies on a daily basis is recommended to me by students virtually every time I give a lecture. Fuck Yeah Gifs, and Gif Party are also popular. Images on group artist-run blogs like Nasty Nets and Spirit Surfers have always had a keen interest in the file format and have custom software to better display them. No one does the job better than Dump.fm on the image platform front though, which likely explains the frantic production amongst their users.
Notably, only three or four years ago, gif production amongst artists tended to fall into two categories — found and carefully handmade. Typically the latter were lone painstaking efforts. Yesterday, even a brief visit to the sites listed above made clear that the spectrum of approaches has vastly expanded. The casual gif maker, the careful gif, the multiple gifs arranged to make one giant gif, the artist-made authorless gif –you get the picture. There are a lot.
So why are artists suddenly more interested in the file format? It’s hard to say, but one theory tabled in a recent conversation, suggested a reaction to a decrease in websites and search engines able to handle the file format as a possible explanation. Google image search recently eliminated the integration of GIF’s in their standard image searchs, Facebook never allowed gifs, and tumblr and WordPress can’t handle large gifs or display them well. It’s not difficult to make the argument that artists who use the web as source material need sites that are friendly to the file format.
Given dump.fm’s unique software, the question of how these images move off the site is particularly relevant. The most complicated and engaging gifs now displayed in the site’s “Hall of Fame” can’t be displayed on this blog. Who knows how a gallery would handle the images but I expect that question will be answered shortly. October 22nd, 319 Scholes will exhibit DUMP.FM, a show put together by curator Lindsay Howard. Consider me there.
[CORRECTION: This original version of this post erroneously stated that Google eliminated the ability to search by file format. It also described Dump.fm's platform as specifically designed to handle gifs. Its founder Ryder Ripps notes in the comments that gif use is primarily driven by its user base, not its ability to display gifs.]