SINGAPORE: A new festival will be throwing audiences for a loop – all thanks to the humble GIF.
From a cat with mesmerising fur to a psychedelic collage of hands and fingers morphing endlessly, the Noise X GIF Fest 2017 is taking the humble bitmap image format out of computer and phone screens, and splashing it onto a range of digital screens in all its colourful, loopy glory.
Jointly organised by Noise Singapore and creative agency Kult, the inaugural edition runs from Oct 5 to 11, at Block 7 in Gillman Barracks. The largest event of its kind in Singapore, it features an exhibition of around 90 original GIFs made by both amateur and professional creatives in Singapore. The GIFs on exhibit were selected from around 500 submissions during a recent open call.
“While they’re mainly used online, we wanted to bring it out to bigger screens to celebrate them,” said Kult creative director Steve Lawler, who is also the founder and curator of the festival.
Aside from the exhibition, other events include an opening night performance by audiovisual collective Syndicate and electronic duo .gif. There will also be a workshop by street photographer Aik Beng Chia, one of the exhibition contributors; and a GIF-making workshop for children.
While GIFs – or “graphics interchange format” – are nowadays mainly regarded as funny viral content for social media, there’s much more to it than that, said Lawler.
From its crude beginnings in 1987, GIFs have become more elaborate, and have proven perfect for a plugged-in generation with short attention spans.
“It’s essentially a looped, animated artwork and what’s nice is this trickery – you take a two second idea and just let it run, and it feels like it could run forever. The feedback has been ‘Oh, I could look at this for a long time’ – and for an artist, that’s great,” said Lawler.
While GIF art may have some ways to go before becoming an accepted mainstream art genre in Singapore, he pointed out that there are already professional GIF artists elsewhere.
It’s also not uncommon to see GIFs at art exhibitions and fairs, and a couple of years ago, London’s Saatchi Gallery even teamed up with Google+ to create a prize for GIF animation (which they called “motion photography”).
“It’s very much a pop art form. In a way, I think video art is just the atas (‘high class’) way of saying GIF!” quipped Lawler.
Beyond its development as a credible artistic artform, GIFs also have potential to earn big bucks.
Kult’s co-founder Tanya Wilson pointed out a very recent article on how Giphy, the online database and search engine for GIFs, could be at the brink of huge success.
“It could be the next big thing because of the sheer amount of users it has got, and the fact that the future is the six-second advertising commercial,” she said, adding that they are actually in touch with Giphy, which has commended some of the festival entries.
The possibilities for the GIFs creators are ever present. Lawler hopes that the festival will open doors for participating GIF-makers, and cites outdoor spaces like shopping malls with digital screens, and outdoor digital billboards as places where GIFs can be presented.
For now, having their GIFs available online is good enough. Graphic designer and illustrator Ella Zheng, aka Ellaisweird, started making GIFs last year. “The Internet is a good place to display my work – I don’t need a physical exhibition space – it’s on the website, on small digital screens, and everybody can see them,” she said.
Of course, GIFs aren’t just for visual artists. While creating the soundscape for the exhibition, Syndicate’s Cherry Chan decided to give GIFs a go just for kicks.
“There are different apps you can use and I just used the Gif Maker! It was really fun,” she said.