About The Show

The Photographers' Gallery has launched its new digital programme with Born in 1987: The Animated GIF, an exhibition devoted to this overlooked image format native to the web and the computer screen. The exhibition features over 40 GIF images by practitioners from a range of creative disciplines. For many, this was their first opportunity to experiment with the medium. The resulting GIFs range from the graphic to the photographic, the subtle to the psychedelic, and demonstrate a wide diversity of approaches which respond to the GIF's particular history and aesthetic qualities. The GIFs on this website are also viewable on The Wall, a 2.7 x 3m Sharp Video Wall located on the ground floor of our gallery in Ramillies Street, London. From 17th June, these works will be joined by a rotating selection of submissions from the public. Instructions on how to contribute can be found here. More information and images of The Wall can be found here.

The Gif Makers

Your GIF on The Wall

As part of the exhibition: Born in 1987: The Animated GIF we are inviting the public to respond to their show by creating and submitting their own GIFs. 

We will be featuring the public submissions on this website, plus an edited selection will be shown on The Wall (a 2.7 x 3m screen) in the main foyer of The Photographers’ Gallery in the final weeks.

Because all GIFs featured on The Wall will be visible to both visitors to the building plus all passersby on Ramillies St through glass windows, your submissions will have to meet some editorial guidelines. For example, we won’t be able to exhibit GIFs on The Wall which are not suitable for a general audience, or GIFs which may have rapid flashing or changes in luminosity which may have a negative impact on members of the public with photosensitive epilepsy. As a guideline, no more than 3 rapid changes to the image per second should appear.

To submit your work, you will need to create a Tumblr Account, and upload your GIF. For us to discover it, you will need to TAG your gif with #bornin1987. Please note that Tumblr has a size restriction of 500px wide and under 1MB in size. We will start reblogging the public submissions and uploading them to The Wall from 18th June - 7th July. We will accept submissions until the 7th July.

Presently we are showing gifs from the following contributors:

jantka, jkscatena, v5mt, barrylewis, boombangbam, chrystal-lattice, da-guy, dowjonesbrotherhood, engramination, fichtrefichtre, fivis, gifriends, glitchee, haydiroket, jamopi, janicemclaren, letmedrive, lexplex, manuel-fernandez, martinboisvert, maxcapacity, msfranklin, nathanwhitham, neasaterry, petercmarquez, pizelnoizz, russellkenny, samantha harvey, sergeykolesov, slimeslut, smelliott, tatiweb, tracekaiser, tsnobiggie, vanja von sek, vvissionnairre, where-the-art-is, wilasj, willyumbeck, yanucatebajasporno.

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Giffed Economy by Matthew Fuller

Why look at animated GIFs now?  They are one of the first forms of image native to computer networks making them charmingly passé, a characteristic that gives them contradictory longevity.  Animated GIFs crystallise a form of the combination of computing and the camera.  As photography moves almost entirely into digital modes, the fascination with such quirky formats increases.  The story of photography will be, in no small part, that of its file formats, the kinds of compression and storage it undergoes, as they in turn produce what is conjurable as an image.


The Graphics Interchange Format was first developed through the computer network firm Compuserve.   As an eight-bit file format it introduced the amazing spectacle of 256 colour images to be won over the thin lines of dial-up connections.  Due to this, when a picture is converted to GIF, it’s likely that posterization occurs – where gradations of tone turn to patches of reduced numbers of colours.   Such aliasing introduces a key part of their aesthetic, something described by the Lempel-Ziv-Welch (LZW) compression that lies at the format’s core.  Characteristic of images in the present era its history is entangled with the imaginings and instruments of “intellectual property”.  The LZW format was itself the site for a protracted and infamous attempt at patent enforcement in the USA that dragged on from 1994 until 2003 prompting the rapid development of the alternative PNG format.

The animated GIF simply combines several files, their sequence ordered by additional data stored in other parts of the file.  It’s a way of making an animation that, compared to the later possibilities of say Flash or AJAX is relatively clunky, if simpler, but it’s a format that is light to load and, as when introduced as a feature of the second version of the Netscape browser, required only standard software.


The animated GIF provides a form of image that is in certain senses both still and moving.  It introduces the form of the loop into the static image.  As photographs are coupled with small snatches of sound, links to text, become video, or provide means of passing steganographically hidden code, they index the more general mutations in culture engendered by computation in an uneasy, exciting and catchy state.  As well as being photographic, they can also be drawn as with many of those composed or gathered by artists such as Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenscheid.  Their ongoing meticulous attention to digital folklore, exemplifies the most eye-catching things on the web in its years of genesis.  More recently, platforms for video to GIF conversion or similar simple features in popular image-editing applications have hooked the format into the newer networks of phones and the economies of copying and sharing that keep the networks buzzing with eye-catching snippets.  The animated GIF allowed pixels to dance.  It turned compression formats into pop culture and, with its patent now thankfully expired, looks set to do so for a few repeats more.


Matthew Fuller works at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London.

www.spc.org/fuller/

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Gif Today by Daniel Rubinstein

The revival of the animated GIF marks a point in the history of the web when it finally became sufficiently advanced to take pleasure in its own obsolescence. Like the rusty engines and the leaking pipes of the derelict spaceship in Alien, the lo-fi jitter of the GIF signals a moment when the novelty of technology fades off and becomes the backdrop rather then substance. Technology, it seems, repeats itself twice, first as a breakthrough, second time as nostalgia. It is salutary to remember that until the first GIFs started to twist and flicker in browser windows the computer screen was a motionless and silent place populated only by columns and tables. These early experiments with frame-by-frame animation delivered the pages of the web from stasis and introduced the online version of neon lights. The current resurgence of the GIF is not only part of the nostalgic turn towards the blurred, the unsharp and the faded but it is also a marker of a moment when the history of the network becomes the material from which the digital image draws its living energy.

The content can be figurative or abstract, lyrical or macabre, but because the primary materials that the GIF artist uses are rhythm and repetition the resulting effect has something comical about it. It is the inevitable outcome of the infinite circular motion which combines in an economic gesture the pathology of compulsive reiteration with the cheerfulness of a carousel. The comedy however is constructed from a series of tiny affective shocks delivered every time the sequence coils back on itself and in so doing reveals the stationary nature of mobility that shatters the illusion of truthful representation. This is particularly so in the case of the photographic GIF that contains nano-traces of both movement and rest and therefore seems to question the very desire for an image to say something meaningful and so it acts as a reminder - for those who need reminding - that representation is only one system among others. The eternal return of the same might seem unproductive and impractical to those who are used to thinking of photography in representational terms, and yet this circularity suggests the possibility of an alternative structure sustained by the reversal of roles: It is not I who is looking at a still image but it is the blinking GIF that affords me the experience of stillness by flashing at me any number of times.

The GIF is a minor art form not only because it escaped – at least for now – the attentions of critics and collectors, but mainly because it does not owe its existence to the binary oppositions between image and matter or form and content that dominate the discourses of art and photography. Even the most realistic and life-like photograph is bound to lose its truth value as an animated GIF, hence the GIF evacuates the photograph of meaning; it destroys its cherished qualities of truth and memory and in so doing it opens up a space for photography to happen.


Daniel Rubinstein is the editor of Philosophy of Photography and senior lecturer at the department of Arts and Media at London South Bank University.

rubinsd@lsbu.ac.uk

Tags bornin1987 daniel rubinstein text gif thephotographersgallery

Dave Lewis is a London-based photographer. In 2006-2008 he was a Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths University of London, Department of Anthropology. Recent exhibitions and screenings include: Entanglement, Iniva 2011; Once Forgotten, Venice Biennale 2011; Field Work, ArtSway and Oriel Davies, 2010; Photo-ID, Norwich Forum, 2009; Hybridity, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, 2008. He has a BA (Hons) in Film and Photographic Arts from the Polytechnic of Central London (now University of Westminster)
http://www.vidaimage.co.uk/

Dave Lewis is a London-based photographer. In 2006-2008 he was a Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths University of London, Department of Anthropology. Recent exhibitions and screenings include: Entanglement, Iniva 2011; Once Forgotten, Venice Biennale 2011; Field Work, ArtSway and Oriel Davies, 2010; Photo-ID, Norwich Forum, 2009; Hybridity, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, 2008. He has a BA (Hons) in Film and Photographic Arts from the Polytechnic of Central London (now University of Westminster)

http://www.vidaimage.co.uk/

Tags gif thephotographersgallery

James Bridle is a writer, publisher and technologist. He makes things with books and the internet, and writes about what he does at http://booktwo.org.
The image depicts the progressive degradation of an image caused by applying every single Instagram filter in turn. I happen to believe that the filter process in apps like Instagram and now increasingly pervasive across digital photography is a semi-conscious process of legitimisation in time, engraining disposable images of the moment with a patina of memory and experience, in order to save and justify them.
The source image is a photograph of an architectural visualisation, part of my Render Ghosts series  i.e., it is already an unreal and imaginary projection of a possible future, which is worn away by our attempt to memorialise it, before it has even fully formed.
James Bridle is a writer, publisher and technologist. He makes things with books and the internet, and writes about what he does at http://booktwo.org.

The image depicts the progressive degradation of an image caused by applying every single Instagram filter in turn. I happen to believe that the filter process in apps like Instagram and now increasingly pervasive across digital photography is a semi-conscious process of legitimisation in time, engraining disposable images of the moment with a patina of memory and experience, in order to save and justify them.

The source image is a photograph of an architectural visualisation, part of my Render Ghosts series  i.e., it is already an unreal and imaginary projection of a possible future, which is worn away by our attempt to memorialise it, before it has even fully formed.

Tags gif bornin1987 jamesbridle thephotographersgallery