Most of us have an inexplicable nostalgic affinity for the old-school digital medium of GIFs—those lo-fi animated images beloved of the web forums and messageboards of yesteryear, which have recently seen a new lease of life as fine art works. As a sequence of flickering frames, the GIF is little more than the distant cousin of that ancient motion graphic enabler that spawned the film industry—the zoetrope. And, since all good ideas come full circle to be reinvented as something new, we’re pleased to see this new Kickstarter project from NYC artist Greg Borenstein called Physical GIF, which seeks to transform GIFs into physical objects. A strobe light takes the place of a shutter to animate the single frames, which are parsed out from the online GIF, then cut and etched using a lazer cutter and delivered to you as a kit you can assemble. The end result is a cross between a record player and a modern-day zoetrope, and lets you have a little piece of the cosmetics of the early internet in your living room.
Taking the high-brow GIF road and avoiding the plethora of nutshots, faceplants, and movie mashups, the project offers just three initial designs—BMX Biker, Elephant-Rabbit Costume Party, New York Fourth July—and has lined up some of the rising stars of GIF art to contribute some limited “Artist Edition Physical GIFs”. The artists include Ryder Ripps, founder of dump.fm; Nullsleep, co-founder of Blip Festival; Sara Ludy, new media and GIF artist; and Sterling Crispin, Computers Club member whose GIFs incorporate Buddhist principles and machine consciousness.
From such an artistically minded bunch you might expect some abstract, avant garde results, which is of course the point. The project hopes these artists will “produce designs that push and expand the medium of the Physical GIF” and will “be working with them to explore a variety of different materials and processes that can be used to achieve surprising effects”. Here’s to the new frontier of GIF art.
Visit the project’s Kickstarter page to donate and reserve your limited edition art GIF or create your own.