GIF Me Four!

Word on the street is that the GIFRIENDS artist group is taking over NYC’s online and offline art scene, while also attempting to redefine the LOL-driven, meme-based paradigm of the “Deal with it” dog and other popular Internet GIFs. But what would this look like in a gallery, could the artists really pull of an art show just based on computer animations and moving images? We decided to check out their live performance at Amo Studios in Bushwick to get a feel for this tech-savvy kind of art and to see if it could draw a crowd – and not just a crowd of computer geeks. 
Can GIFS be Deep?

The four artists, Michael Fivis, Marisa Gertz, Peter Marquez, and Alex Thebez, are inspired by both the ephemeral nature of the medium as well as the ever-changing landscape of the Internet itself. The average GIF has mostly been relegated to trend-mongering social platforms such as Tumblr and Reddit, but GIFRIENDS seeks deeper meaning in the GIF’s design. Rather than compete with a hopelessly apathetic sunglass-wearing dog, the friends have compiled semi-related imagery from their respective travels into a single GIF document – all shown at came together at Amo Studios under the title “From Point A to Point B.”

Amo Studios is really just a tiny room hidden among several deserted blocks of warehouse buildings in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The anonymity of the gallery seemed appropriate for the vague familiarity of the artists’ work, which focused on moments remembered from their travels around the world. The artists transformed the raw space into an interactive GIF theater that viewers could peruse freely with a computer mouse mounted on a wall. The audience was encouraged to interact and people even took to drawing on walls with chalk. 

GIFRIENDS Audience Participating

GIF lover Valentina enjoys the GIFRIENDS exhibition “From Point A to Point B” as she draws on the wall. Photo: Camilo Fuentealba

But what actually is “it?” The animated GIF exists in a realm somewhere between the Internet and one’s own mind. A series of images are propelled in an infinite loop through which fleeting observations become hypnotic and surreal – more evocative than a photograph and too brief to be considered film. The GIF seems to me more like a poem, a continuous recitation of imagery. Like poetry, the GIF attempts to relate to the viewer through some sort of common understanding. An event becomes a universal experience, an observation is really more of a feeling, and a viewer is able to connect to visual stimuli on an emotional level. Although the average GIF can be felt and forgotten in a matter of seconds, many are as powerful and haunting as an incident IRL. One of the first animated GIFs that I felt especially moved by was an 8-bit image of a smiling dog. It remains serene while a pair of Ray-Bans descend slowly onto its face, suggesting passively that you simply “Deal with it.” And I did, I really did.

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