Introducing The Graphics Interchange Format Exhibition Website

by Paddy Johnson on March 25, 2011 · 56 comments From the Desk of AFC

Screenshot from the Graphics Interchange Format website

Graphics Interchange Format will come down tomorrow at Denison University’s Mulberry Gallery, but it lives forever on the web. In addition to the four flickr sets I’ve produced for the uber GIF enthusiast, thanks to the mad skillz of AFC’s Will Brand the exhibition now has its own website. This isn’t just any website either. It has all the image functionality you see on facebook minus the social networking capabilities. Scroll over the tagged installation images and the captioning information for the artist is highlighted below. Click on the image and the actual GIF will pop-up in your browser.  This is used everywhere on the site.

I worked with Will Brand to build this website for a couple of reasons, but the biggest impetus was a desire to better document the work I had done. The very day the exhibition launched I was approached with the possibility of traveling the exhibition, and though I already had many photographs, I wanted a means of better imparting the moving image. This website meets those ends.

Past this, we simply wanted produce the kind of website we wanted to see in the art world.  I can’t take too much credit for this end of the development — Will Brand is the driving creative force behind the Graphics Interchange Format website, and the reason it looks as good as it does. If you’re a gallery and you need a good looking website I recommend hiring him. If you want this show to come to your exhibition space, let’s talk.


Paul Slocum March 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm

The show looks great. 🙂

tom moody March 26, 2011 at 1:01 pm

This show needs to be in New York. It would upset Man Bartlett, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made.

COMPANY March 27, 2011 at 8:49 pm

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Britney March 28, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Awesome! I appreciate the section on HOW-TO MAKE A GIF

tom moody March 30, 2011 at 3:37 pm

With all due respect to Paddy and my esteemed online colleagues:
I dislike that simple net art diagram and all the pretentious assumptions it stands for (“art is like, on the net, and happens in the space between computers, like wow”) and wish it was not on the front page of the GIF show website. GIFs happen on the screen where they are made and the screens where they are shown, not in some vague in-between place. It’s true that GIFs can be collaborative and take elements from various locations on the web but they are not an “art of the network.” That is MTAA’s position but it is an old, Web Art 1.0 position (art solely as critique of invisible hegemonic structures) and doesn’t speak for at least one artist in the GIF show. I also dislike Kevin Bewersdorf’s hippie zen new age “art circulating through our chakras” GIF–that is no better as an alternative. DH Lawrence might have liked the idea of the solar plexus as the seat of creation but I’ll take the mind, thanks. I made my own “art happens here” GIF seven years ago and don’t feel like posting it again. I basically don’t care “where the art happens.”

Anonymous March 30, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Sure, the position reflects the time it was made – 1997 – but this is a survey show, so I think even from that base point, it makes sense to use the earliest image in the show as the lead.

It’s true that GIFs happen where they are made and shown but I don’t think that this means MTAA’s GIF should be dismissed because they don’t speak more specifically to that physical reality. It is the lead image on the website because I like that the work references exchange, which is clearly important to GIFs. You yourself made an entire show of Optidiscs that had been collected and displayed on various sites.

Kevin Bewersdorf is not offered as an alternative, but another remixing of that concept down the line. Where Bewersdorf locates art isn’t the same as me either, but to describe the two works as a binary is to offer a rather narrow interpretation of an inclusion that comes out of a much larger and unique body of work. The point, again, was to showcase a community responding to each others images. Of course, you never know if people are actually going to think through things, but the hope was that this practice would have clear connections to the practice of sharing within countless artistic communities contemporary and historical.

It’s worth mentioning that while MTAA is on the front of the website, Stephanie Davidson’s cat and slayer gif graces the showcard cover. No one work will ever represent all the artists in an exhibition fairly, but hopefully this exhibition will have the good fortune of multiple venues and press presentations.

m.river March 31, 2011 at 2:57 am

With all due respect to Paddy and my esteemed online colleagues:…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………lol

T.Whid April 1, 2011 at 2:40 am
tom moody March 31, 2011 at 8:25 pm

^is that

Paddy, it’s true I was interested in how that GIF made its way around the web but I was collecting screen shots of the target patterns and presenting them as a kind of mega-painting. The Web Art 1.0 style would be a list of IP addresses followed by a long string of dots.

Anonymous March 31, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Right, but I don’t have a problem with the web art 1.0 style. If I did there would be no point in doing a survey show. If your quibbles reveal a weakness in the show, to me, it’s that there isn’t enough work from this period included. I feel like if there were more work from that period, perhaps there would be less complaints about why the show isn’t looking more forward.

tom moody March 31, 2011 at 9:03 pm

The distinction I’m making is between an art that is predominantly text and critique vs an unabashedly visual style. Much of late ’90s ‘”” was visually starved, partly of necessity (low bandwidth and puny CPUs) but partly because it was made by academic-based conceptualists who favored bare bones documentation as art. I’m happy you didn’t include more of that–it’s really another show (“How Art on the Net Got More Interesting to Look At, 1997- 2011”).

Even GIFs in the ’90s were mostly silly flying mailboxes. Charming, but so much has been done with this filetype since then.

tom moody April 1, 2011 at 1:25 pm

More biting the hand and amusing the boys…

The Simple Net Art Diagram isn’t just used as the main image for the website, it is shown next to the words “Graphics Interchange Format” in the signage for the physical exhibition. The word “interchange” is reinforced by nearby images of “network art” and circulation, implying that (i) “interchange” is the key word in the GIF acronym and (ii) the Simple Net Art Diagram is first and foremost a GIF, rather than a piece of ’90s clip art used to illustrate a utopian concept of how art would operate on the Net. It’s certainly true that remixing is an attribute of 2.0 or social media art but it mostly just happens, it doesn’t announce itself as a new principle complete with its own diagram.

Simple Net Art diagram imagines a world of programmer artists practicing the art of the hack. The more interesting story is how the GIF slipped out of the hands of programmers and became a popular medium, reducing artists to mostly invisible fellow remixers. Contrary to the implications of the GIF Story told on the exhibition website, GIFs have been completely open source worldwide since 2004 and during that time their use has grown, despite the indifference of the major software and social media providers. Sites like YTMND, 4Chan, and various “meme” purveyors contributed to this explosion of GIF usage, which even the mainstream media has noted in the last year.

Anonymous April 1, 2011 at 5:39 pm

I’m not sure I understand the logic of this argument. I have a hard time believing that viewers will look at the Simple Net Art Diagram and come to the conclusion that the show’s core thesis is that the most important kind of remixing that occurs on the net is that which announces itself as doing so. Were that the case I would have eliminated a lot of the other work in the show. Also, I don’t think MTAA claims their interests are new. They are interested in communication. This work expresses that interest and asks others to participate. Arguably, your rejection of the work only further legitimizes their own.

As it happens, during the talk I gave at Denison, I described the Simple Net Art diagram in 2011 as primarily a nod to remix culture. What are the implications of the GIF Story told on the exhibition website?

Anonymous April 1, 2011 at 5:39 pm

I’m not sure I understand the logic of this argument. I have a hard time believing that viewers will look at the Simple Net Art Diagram and come to the conclusion that the show’s core thesis is that the most important kind of remixing that occurs on the net is that which announces itself as doing so. Were that the case I would have eliminated a lot of the other work in the show. Also, I don’t think MTAA claims their interests are new. They are interested in communication. This work expresses that interest and asks others to participate. Arguably, your rejection of the work only further legitimizes their own.

As it happens, during the talk I gave at Denison, I described the Simple Net Art diagram in 2011 as primarily a nod to remix culture. What are the implications of the GIF Story told on the exhibition website?

Will Brand April 1, 2011 at 5:50 pm

A few things:

Firstly, the “interchange” bit is absolutely the key word, insofar as these acronyms mean anything at all (see: YAML). There are plenty of ways to animate things; you’ve chosen the medium that’s most universal and most dependable, and that’s not a coincidence. If GIF support weren’t integrated into every layout engine worth considering, you’d be working in Flash or Quicktime. If GIFs didn’t play instantly and unstoppably, without plugins or play buttons, you’d be working in Flash or Quicktime. And if you were working in Flash or Quicktime, the nature of those formats dictates that this animated remix culture could not exist.

The preference for GIF as a medium, it seems to me, has nothing to do whatsoever with its compression algorithms, a teensy bit to do with the retro appeal of a limited color palette, and a whole lot to do with the fact that – as the very existence of your remix culture indicates – it’s so easily interchanged.

Secondly, I don’t think your premise that the GIF “slipped out of the hands of programmers and became a popular medium” makes much sense – I don’t buy that GIF was ever exclusive to a particularly technical group, certainly not since the mid-90s. The endless GIFs of construction workers and mailboxes were made by regular ol’ people. If you meant – and I think you did – that net art in particular moved away from coding-heavy projects and towards image remixing, that’s another thing. I don’t think it’s true – it’s pretty clear this is a diversification of methods rather than a regime change, and JPEGs are far more common as a medium than GIFs – but I think it’s close.

More generally, I see your concern – you feel that an essentially visual and tribal movement has been placed under the shadow of a foreign, conceptual rule. MTAA are image-makers only incidentally, where your GIF tribe is about visual effect first and foremost. I get it. I just don’t think you’ve proven convincingly (1) that Simple Net Art Diagram is inarguably detached from everything else in the show (certainly it seems a reasonable inclusion given Kevin Bewersdorf’s piece), (2) that Simple Net Art Diagram’s shadow hurts the rest of the work, or (3) that insular shows are the way forward for Net Art. Anyone even vaguely familiar with the field understands there are too many circlejerk shows already, and too few that attempt to bridge the gaps between the varying Net Art tribes or between Net Art and art history more generally; I’m biased, but I think Paddy’s done a good thing, here. She’s done her job. If curators existed to organize artists as they organize themselves, they would be unnecessary.

I also have some problems with the idea of “invisibility”, but that’s for another day.

tom moody May 11, 2011 at 7:31 pm

“I see your concern – you feel that an essentially visual and tribal
movement has been placed under the shadow of a foreign, conceptual rule.
MTAA are image-makers only incidentally, where your GIF tribe is about
visual effect first and foremost. I get it.”

That is not what I wrote.

Duncan Alexander April 1, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Minor point: Some people really dig the compression: You should see what modern browsers do to screen-door type compression when GIFs are resized with antialiasing. When used correctly, it leaves the audience begging for moire.

Bad puns aside, if we ignore the politics for a second, I’d like to argue that this show is a great “sampler” (not to be demeaning) of how things have been branching online since the whole GIF as art thing took off in the 90s. It’s historical, it shows what people remember from when and what we’re all up to today. Paddy has done a great job.

That said, I think that Tom is right in that there isn’t a cohesive “art hack” online culture any more, or that it’s been overshadowed by the much more cohesive image-making culture. This is natural; it’s a lot easier to plunk down in front of Photoshop (or the GIMP – cheaper!) than to learn HTML, CSS, Java, Javascript, JQuery, Flash, PHP, Processing, Ajax, etc.

When the web was younger, the demographics leaned more nerdy because of the initial hurdle of computer access/knowledge/internet access. Now, not so much. Because it’s easy for your average Joe to make an image, a demand for image hosting sites popped up with the rise of niche forums in the late 90s and early 2000s. This led to sites like Tumblr being developed; whereas no large social sites appeared for image/art/hack culture.

My guess is this is because coding is a liability; when you let your users screw around with the fabric of your chunk of Internet, you run the risk of someone damaging the site, damaging other people’s computers, and getting you into a lot of trouble. Images are much easier to control as they are passive files by nature. Just ask Ryder or Scott how many times I and the other dump mods have destroyed rooms by playing around with recursive iframes or chat z-indexes… I don’t think it’s necessarily a culture thing that has kept the coders and hackers separate in net art, I think it’s that there’s nowhere to meet up and do what they do best.

sally April 2, 2011 at 4:56 pm

As a curator, I hate the phase when I have to choose an image to represent the exhibition. It’s always a compromise, no matter what. For this show, I think the fact that the gifs are all made available for view in a non-heirarchized manner on the ‘checklist’ page does a lot to mitigate that problem where one work that actually functions as an individual part of the collective gets highlighted as if it somehow represents the whole. I wouldn’t make too much of it. The SNAD is so cute and retro, I think most viewers will see it as a blast from the past rather than a curatorial statement about what gifs are.

tom moody April 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Paddy’s post announcing the show ( ) does a good job of communicating the spirit of the event. There are multiple images that can be read at a glance, and the writing is warm and enthusiastic.

Will’s phrase from this thread -“GIF support is integrated into every layout engine worth considering” – gets at the urgency of the medium. Contrast that with phrases from the website: “Today the format has been eclipsed by the near-universal support for Flash and PNG,” or “before the general turn to modernist web design and free professional CMSes like Wordpress.” Not such a strong case.

Anonymous April 2, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Just to be clear, the post announcing the show is the press release, which is also available on the website both as a pdf and word document.

tom moody April 2, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Right, but in the PDF and word doc the GIFs don’t move. Much of the excitement of your post is lost, and the press release seems tacked on to the MTAA narrative and Will’s dispassionate view of GIF makers as some weird throwback tribe. I would like to see you integrate your story into the website!

Anonymous April 2, 2011 at 7:10 pm

While I think there may be some benefit in using a lead image GIF in the about page, I decided not to make the whole press release available as a download for two reasons:

1. It seemed more likely to be distributed professionally if a basic description was offered along with the full downloadable press release.
2. I wanted the website to match museum and gallery standards because I want this show to exist at other venues.

As for dispassionate views:

“for artists, they [gifs] represent the most immediate, reproducible, and, in many cases, visually specific animated medium available.”

This to me, does not read as a weird throwback tribe.

tom moody April 2, 2011 at 8:53 pm

It’s pretty lackluster–“available,” wow–and it follows sentences that suggest that GIFs are “eclipsed,” un-modern, and with lingering issues of patent “tyranny.” (Why bring that up now? The patent lapsed 7 years ago, 8 in the US.) Will disputes almost everything I say in my comments here, with hints there is even more he has to argue with. His phrasing–“your remix culture,” “circlejerk shows,” “your GIF tribe”–goes beyond dispassionate into active disgust with the people he is writing about.

Will Brand April 3, 2011 at 8:58 pm

On the first point: all I did was depict the GIF as a tool first and a style second. Your personal art practice does not change the technical properties of the data format any more than Abstract Expressionism changed oil paint, and the copyright battles for GIF are as much a part of its history as the invention of aniline dyes is for paint.

The simple fact is, you’re hard-pressed to find animated GIFs online today. In a section titled “What is a GIF?” – and emphatically not titled “How are GIFs used by artists?” – it would be dishonest to present the format as anything other than marginal. Sorry. If you want to argue with any of what I said in its original context – the data format named GIF, not your art practice – I’d be down for that.

On the second point:
“your remix culture” – you called yourself, as an artist, a “mostly invisible remixer”. I wasn’t distancing myself from the idea of remixing any more than saying “your arm” would imply I don’t have an arm.

“circlejerk shows” – are you denying that some shows are circlejerks, or are you just upset I pointed it out? Closely-knit groups of artists showing their own work but not reaching beyond it to provide context can still produce great art – Fluxus had plenty of circlejerk shows – that’s just not the job of a curator.

“your GIF tribe” – is exactly as much of a tribe as, say, the circle of folks around e-Flux; I’m not disgusted by them. There exists a group of artists centered around the animated GIF and, in particular, which shares a number of ideas about art production and is, I think, aware of its existence as a group. I think this is pretty well proven by how often you guys show together. I’m not saying you’re making art out of flint spears and palm leaves; you’re just in a group of people (tribe) who are into a medium (GIF) that I’m not a part of (your). What’s the problem?

Tom, I think we both love to argue. We can definitely argue about this. If we do, though, I want it to be less about semantics and how butthurt you are and more about art; which is to say, I like your other comment better.

tom moody April 3, 2011 at 9:10 pm

I don’t like this kind of arguing. The comment I made below (“Will and I have a strong disagreement that ‘interchange’ is the most important reason someone would make a GIF”) is really the crux of the argument to me.

Will Brand April 3, 2011 at 10:13 pm

I am a writer in exactly the same way that you are an artist. You produce artworks, I produce words. To expect me to respond to the misinterpretation of my words with anything less than the force and vitriol with which you respond to the misinterpretation of your artwork is either unrealistic or actively demeaning to the field of criticism.

That said, yes, I too want to continue the other comment chain a whole lot more than I want to continue this one.

tom moody April 4, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Will, aren’t you an artist and weren’t you in a show of “YouTubes as art”? Possibly you are part of the “YouTube tribe” who undertook to document the “GIF tribe” and we are both using words as a form of tribal warfare. Just a thought.

Anonymous April 2, 2011 at 9:22 pm

I’ll let Will handle address since it’s directed at him, but this comment upsets me. You’re attributing ill intentions to a man who offered to spend three weeks building a website for this show at no cost because it was a project we both believed in. This is not something he had to do. I’m happy to debate the effectiveness of the website because I think we all benefit from the discussion, but for me, this crosses the line. It distorts the good will extended to the show as an act of abuse. Nothing could be further from the truth.

tom moody April 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I don’t know what Will’s intentions are, Paddy, I am talking about his language and word choices. He puts me in a defensive position when he says I must “prove convincingly” that MTAA and I occupy different parts of the art map. That was demonstrated pretty well, and its all a matter of public record, during the arguments over surf clubs three years ago, and four years before that in the “art happens here” discussion.

Will and I have a strong disagreement that “interchange” is the most important reason someone would make a GIF. My guess is that the reason people put “OptiDisc” on their websites isn’t because they thought, “oh this is something I can remix” but rather because it appealed on some more fundamental level. I’m interested in what that fundamental level is–probably a combination of formal properties, psychological investigation, critique, humor–and “remixability” comes somewhere further down the list. Will uses strong language to make his point (that I am wrong about my own reasons for making work) and I’m replying in kind.

Please don’t get upset, I appreciate having the forum to hash this out and appreciate having a voice in the show.

Will Brand April 3, 2011 at 9:39 pm

I don’t state things weakly because there’s enough of that already in art. It’s not because I hate you.

All I meant by the things you would need to ‘prove convincingly’ was to enumerate the things I would need to be convinced of to share your views about the show. It was an invitation to discuss one or more of them in depth, one endpoint of which could be you winning me and the rest of the internet over and making some mark on the discussion around GIFs. That’s entirely possible. If showing you how far you need to go to make your argument puts you on the defensive, though, that probably doesn’t bode well.

I never said you were “wrong about your own reasons for making work”. All I meant to say was that GIFs have certain properties, both formally and in use, which make them different from other media, and that those differences were important to understanding why an artist would choose the GIF over, say, Quicktime videos. That does not imply that all art-making with GIFs is necessarily predicated on those differences. Tylenol with Codeine can be used recreationally in a way Tylenol cannot; saying that is not saying that everyone who buys Tylenol with Codeine uses it recreationally.

That said, I think those differences are an important discussion point. Each difference says something about our culture and what people feel the need to express within it. If artists prefer animation to still imagery, that says something. If artists prefer raster to vector graphics, that says something. If artists prefer endless loops to one-shot animations, or limited colors to unlimited colors, or choppy animation to tweens, all of these preferences – reflected in the choice of a medium that indulges them – say something, and can help us to understand both the work and the cultural moment. Investigating the medium as a medium without considering content is not disrespectful to that content or in any way anti-art; on the contrary, I believe it is the best way to understand artists’ true intentions. Asking you what you express in your GIFs is the equivalent of asking someone how they feel about wasting energy; any likely answer is going to sound good. Asking you why you do not work in Flash is the equivalent of asking them whether they keep the air conditioner on when they’re out of the house; specificity can reveal the true priorities at work.

The reason why people put OptiDisc on their websites isn’t related to the reason why OptiDisc is a GIF and not a Flash movie, unless we consider whether those people would go to the trouble of embedding Flash rather than being able to use an image tag. If we’re considering that, that supports my point. Besides which, public reception isn’t related to the conditions or intentions of production, and positive reception doesn’t imply a positive view of the methods of production; we see that in anything from McDonalds to Rebecca Black. I mean, for clarity, for those to be contrasts with you: since my enjoyment of a McDonalds hamburger doesn’t mean I like how it’s produced, you can’t imply viewers and users who enjoy your GIFs necessarily think they would not be better expressed in some other medium.

tom moody April 3, 2011 at 1:25 pm

And congratulations to m.river not only for dominating the show but for kicking my ass in the “like” button war.

Tim Whidden April 4, 2011 at 11:33 am

Hi all.


Simple Net Art Diagram isn’t a GIF as such. It began its life as a GIF but has since moved on.

For us, the source code is the primary object (if you will). It’s the vector information available here: (Which reminds me, I should put up an SVG file.)

Everything else is an interpretation (or output) of the mathematical coordinates in that vector file. Be it a GIF, ink on paper, vinyl on wall, icing on cake or anything else.

tom moody April 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Thanks, hopefully Will Brand will read this and rethink his remarks above.

Will Brand April 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm

It took me a while to figure out which of my comments could be misunderstood as thinking Simple Net Art Diagram was a “GIF as such”, to borrow the apparently correcting phrase.

I assume this is part of your reading of the index page design as saying “the Simple Net Art Diagram is first and foremost a GIF”. In my response to that, I made it explicit that I see MTAA as “image-makers only incidentally”, which implies pretty clearly that I would be surprised should they produce an image which was “first and foremost a GIF”.

In any case, the fact is that this isn’t news to me. I have the .ai file of Simple Net Art Diagram saved on my desktop. Besides which, the essence and purpose of its GIF-ness makes no difference to any of the arguments we’ve made, excepting perhaps an implied one positing that the lead image for a medium-specific show should be a medium-specific piece. That’s not an argument I’ve made or dealt with at all, and I would have no reason to reconsider it.

That said, if that’s the argument you’re trying to make, I’d generally agree with you. This, however, is not the exhibition you imply it to be. Paddy’s concern, as I understand it, was not to investigate the most GIFy of GIFs, and it certainly wasn’t anything in line with the views I put forward about form. Those views were my own. Rather, Graphics Interchange Format was attempting (and again I speak for Paddy only hesitantly) to contextualize the GIF as a wide-ranging art practice with both internal and external references, influences, and timelines. The connection between MTAA and Kevin Bewersdorf is important to bring to light insofar as it points to the continuing discussion which is a necessary component of a fully-fledged art form. Before anyone seriously comes to consider GIFs art, they’ll need to be convinced that there is a productive and creative dialogue occurring in the medium between artists, preferably over a long period of time. The link between MTAA and Kevin, which spans eleven years (more than half the age of the Web) with a particularly direct, immediately obvious visual connection despite wildly different artistic aims, is an excellent example. If we want to move the GIF forward as a subject for study, for appreciation, for collection, we can use these two images to convert the unbelievers. Like it or not, these are your peers, and the position of the GIF is shaky enough that you’re going to be remembered together or not at all.

Anonymous April 4, 2011 at 6:47 pm

The GIF show is meant to be a sampler. It’s also meant to make a case for GIFs to those who know little to nothing about the file format. As Will points out, part of making that case was including an example of dialogue within the medium. As I mentioned earlier, if I have a criticism of my own show it’s that as a survey it wasn’t as broad as it could be. Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to address that in future iterations.

tom moody April 6, 2011 at 11:53 am

“and the position of the GIF is shaky enough that you’re going to be remembered together or not at all”

That would be harsh even for a negative review of the show. It’s awkward enough being reduced to a file format (a necessary fiction most artists would accept for the sake of context) without being told your art career will sink or swim depending on how it fares.

To underscore a point that was made late in the discussion: Some artists in the show use code in art but only one uses code as art. “Tribes” is the wrong word–this isn’t anthropology–but these are some pretty strong camps. The discussion is much larger than flavors of GIF use.

Paddy, thanks for listening and responding.

Will Brand April 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm

I’m willing to be harsh, negative, awkward, and anthropological if it means being clear. That’s a conscious sacrifice of etiquette so we can actually talk to each other and flesh things out. It’s a shame you’re not letting that happen. I’m sure “the discussion is much larger”, but you don’t seem to be interested in having any discussion at all; appealing to scale and throwing out ideas like “critique” and “psychological investigation”, terms so broad as to be entirely meaningless, doesn’t actually get us anywhere.

I’ve put out a few ideas here in fairly plain words that I’d love a substantial response to; you’re a smart dude, and you’ve changed my mind about topics before, and that sort of honest feedback is valuable both to me personally and to the discussion generally. Instead, I get complaining that, in essence, I’m not impressed enough by your unknowable, indescribable, entirely unique art-wizard persona. Nah, dude. If I wanted to suck wizard cocks for a living I’d be under a magical bridge of some sort. It’s nice to meet Artist Tom Moody but is regular Tom Moody there?

Anyway, I understand your point that SNAD is an artwork-output and everything else in the show is an artwork-original. I could bicker with it on the grounds of some of the works on display being .movs rather than the GIFs themselves, but I don’t think that’s productive. Even giving you that point, however, I still don’t understand how that makes it unsuitable as a lead image. It doesn’t have to “speak for you” any more than the cover Marilyn speaks for the Jasper Johns works in this exhibition:, just to take the first example at hand.

SNAD makes a statement which can reasonably be related to each of the other works in the show – you disagree, I know, but the fact that you haven’t truly responded to my defense of it indicates to me that you admit it is a serviceable interpretation. SNAD has a direct relation to at least one piece (Kevin Bewersdorf’s) and should be presented before it to show the proper direction of influence. Being an output rather than an artwork doesn’t diminish its status enough to singlehandedly strip it of its position, because this is not 1950. Finally, all of this argument about its status as the “real thing” is absolute nonsense when one is looking at GIFs blown up to wall size in an art gallery. The context is so incredibly far removed from the typical experience of seeing a GIF (alone, at home, in a browser window) that I’d argue nothing in the show is the “real thing”.

Your name starts with an ‘M’, so maybe you didn’t get this, but in Kindergarten I, as the kid with the first name according to alphabetical order, was the line-leader. Every time we lined up, I got to be the first one. The lasting effects of this on my life, and on the lives of those depicted by a tyrannical alphabet as “followers”, have been surprisingly small. Get over it.

Tim Whidden April 6, 2011 at 7:03 pm

@Will “Anyway, I understand your point that SNAD is an artwork-output and everything else in the show is an artwork-original.”

All of it is output. None of it is original. And vice versa. It’s digital art! Bits on disks, interpreted through different software that is programmed to read that particular format.

Format should be particularly meaningless for digital artists IMHO (it’s just a technical question). The format of MTAA’s digital work changes constantly depending on the venue (dial up web, broadband web, local disks, etc).

What makes most of the visual culture around GIFs interesting is the rapid visual conversations that can happen when groups (networks) of people start riffing on one another, visually responding, quoting, etc on image boards, group blogs, surf clubs and on and on. The relationships between the images (and how those relationships evolve) is usually more interesting than any of the individual images.

The net/web makes this possible and is why the art in net art happens between the computers. I think that’s what Paddy was getting at with the show. Excuse me if I’m repeating what she already stated.

Will Brand April 6, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Firstly, I think you missed the point of this comment thread:

I agree with most of this. I understand your take on the original in net art and it’s just about my own – I was more trying to demonstrate that even given Tom’s premise, his argument wasn’t convincing. Certainly you’re right about Paddy’s intentions for the show.

I disagree, though, with the idea that format is meaningless because one can shift between formats so easily in net art – or, rather, I disagree with the idea that that’s what ‘should’ be. I find myself thinking quite often that the concept in a painting might have been better executed as a sculpture or a photograph, or a video would have been better as a performance, or a photograph as an installation, or whatever. I don’t think I’m the only person with these thoughts; I think it’s a pretty common way of identifying why and how a piece doesn’t work. We put up with those thoughts because we recognize that it often requires years of training and hard work before one can express oneself fluidly in those media. That gap doesn’t exist in net art – generally, anyone who can put together an HTML page can learn Javascript and PHP with a book and some time, and anyone who can create a GIF can just as easily create a JPEG or a TIFF or a Flash animation or whatever. When those decisions aren’t forced, when suddenly artists are making a conscious decision between equally accessible formats, those decisions become important ones not only for understanding the art (trying not to repeat my other comment) but for understanding the media (trying not to repeat this essay: ). That latter bit is, I think, where we can do some good in the world.

I agree with you, Tom, Kevin, and just about anybody with a pulse that free, open, instantaneous exchange of images and the ability to create meaning through communal riffs on context is super important. It’s a defining trait of the present moment. I just don’t think we need to abandon useful models of medium-specific interrogation (by which I mean media more specific than “the net”) just because those models are old.

tom moody April 6, 2011 at 7:45 pm

This isn’t Johns being represented by Pop, this is Rosenquist being represented by Kosuth. Duncan Alexander’s point – “there isn’t a cohesive ‘art hack’ online culture any more, or it’s been overshadowed by the much more cohesive image-making culture” – is a good reason why MTAA’s image isn’t a good symbol for the show. Theirs is an illustration of an idea, “code as art,” or “network as art,” and it belongs to a self-conscious, semantic, Charles Harrison/Victor Burgin/Art & Language school within new media, which no one else in the show is really doing. Bewersdorf is responding to them in one GIF–is it typical of his work? I’d say not. Even MTAA has cast doubt on whether this is a good symbol for the stand-alone GIF-making others are doing. By all means don’t listen to the artists in the show, though.

Will Brand April 6, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Thanks for this. It’s the clearest explanation of your concern so far. Thanks not so much for giving me the explanation I asked for and then telling me I wouldn’t listen to it, though.

The problem here is that you’re still complaining about a show that doesn’t exist. You decided that this was a show about dumpers plus a few other people you liked, when Paddy, who actually went to the trouble of putting the thing together, wrote a lengthy press release that explains pretty clearly that this is meant to be a survey. A survey of a medium, not a movement, and certainly not of your movement in particular. She’s made that repeatedly explicit in her comments. She’s stated that ideally she would have included more works from earlier in the period. Given the fact that other than SNAD all the works are from 2006-on, I can see how looking around the show it might not fit. That said, the stated aims of the show make that irrelevant. From the press release and talking to Paddy, SNAD is an important part of the story – the entire story – of the GIF as a medium for art.

If you like, you can call the show a failure for not visually representing the entirety of that history. That’d be a dick move, and would only encourage the future inclusion of more of those terrible terrible web 1.0 works, but you can do that.

If you like, I can zip up the files and you can rehost the site, take out MTAA and rename the thing ‘GIF REMIXED’ and maybe that would be sorta okay.

I don’t think, though, that you’re going to convince Paddy that she accidentally made the wrong show. So what’s the point?

tom moody May 11, 2011 at 7:43 pm

I didn’t say you wouldn’t listen to it, I said you hadn’t listened to what Duncan, MTAA, and other artists were saying about the show.

tom moody April 6, 2011 at 9:15 pm

“The relationships between the images (and how those relationships evolve) is usually more interesting than any of the individual images”

Riffs are great but there are also strong (or in Groys terms, universally weak) images that get the process going. Paddy mostly didn’t pick works in process for the show, she picked finished statements that the artists worked hard on and thought about. OptiDisc has been remixed many times but those aren’t what she picked. Embarrassing, but someone made a choice.

tom moody April 6, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Tim and I clearly don’t agree, and Will is saying, “no, you not only agree, you’re famous buds and will go down in the sinking GIF ship together!!”

Will Brand April 6, 2011 at 11:07 pm

Jesus, Tom, five days ago I said “I see your concern – you feel that an essentially visual and tribal movement has been placed under the shadow of a foreign, conceptual rule. MTAA are image-makers only incidentally, where your GIF tribe is about visual effect first and foremost. I get it.” And you know what? I got it. You don’t like MTAA. Tom Moody and MTAA are not alike, though their art practices produce images encoded in the same manner. Five days and a few thousand words ago I got that. I thought you’d quoted the ‘tribe’ bit enough that maybe you’d read the rest, but christ, leave it alone.

Despite your issues with its form and its creators, Simple Net Art Diagram has a place in this exhibition, and in this history. Kevin’s response – indicative of his practice or no – says just about exactly what you’ve gone to all this fuss to say: the novelty in art was once its digitization and transmission but is now its exchange and modification. What Paddy did here was create a history – one you have an issue with, but a history nonetheless – and my comments reflected the simple truth of the thing: plenty of people within and without the art world would not immediately consider GIFs art, and making the sorts of connections Paddy has here are essential to fixing that. In her own words: “It’s also meant to make a case for GIFs to artists and students who know little to nothing about the file format… part of making this case was including an example of dialogue within the medium.”

Full-time GIF making is not a viable career choice. You might have noticed that. Removing Simple Net Art Diagram from this show would rob the show of some of its historical authority (authority by chronology, not because MTAA are art gods or anything) and hurt the case for this format as an art medium, in turn damaging its ability to help you, Tom Moody, out in life. I don’t really understand why you’re fighting so hard for that.

Tim Whidden April 6, 2011 at 11:57 pm

Will. You have a typo in the third sentence of the last graf. You mistakenly typed ‘not’ then a few words, then you mistakenly typed ‘or anything.’

tom moody May 11, 2011 at 7:30 pm

“I see your concern – you feel that an essentially visual and tribal
movement has been placed under the shadow of a foreign, conceptual rule.
MTAA are image-makers only incidentally, where your GIF tribe is about
visual effect first and foremost. I get it.” No, you don’t. That’s your paraphrase of what I wrote. Saying “I see what you’re saying” and then changing the wording is a trifle disingenuous.

Anonymous April 6, 2011 at 10:20 pm
m.river April 6, 2011 at 11:25 pm

nice! well played sstage. well played

Jennifer Chan April 7, 2011 at 12:05 am

I really like how this looks; there’s a good balance between on-screen and projected material. (maybe except for having several monitors lined up against the wall together but that’s just me…) Great job on the install!

Jennifer Chan April 7, 2011 at 12:07 am

Sorry. ^former comment probably would work better on the page about the exhibition, but only saw the documentation by going through the website. I sort of wish all the gifs were altogether on one page, but I know that it was a curatorial decision. Well done Will!

tom moody April 7, 2011 at 12:46 am

Tim, Mike, thanks for making me possible!

Will Brand April 7, 2011 at 1:03 am

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God.

tom moody April 7, 2011 at 2:12 pm

trackback, 4-7-11, “The above-linked thread grew progressively nutty. If you have the stamina to read it, please note the number of times the arguments are paraphrased, each time with increasing levels of speculation, paranoia, accusations of disloyalty and ingratitude, and plain old ad hominem abuse. The case for a difficult artist bucking the show for reasons of ego (as opposed to simple disagreement on principles) is vastly amplified.”

tom moody May 11, 2011 at 7:50 pm

The crux of the argument here is Will Brand’s statement “Firstly, the ‘interchange’ bit is absolutely the key word, insofar as these acronyms mean anything at all.” I don’t agree that it’s key, absolutely or otherwise. It’s an element of the appeal of GIFs but not the main one. In a subsequent thread Will Brand seems to be attempting to back away from his own words by saying our positions are the same and I don’t know what we are arguing about. That is, to put it politely, rubbish.

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