School Response to Tricia Wang’s Response to “Gifability”

Read the original article, Gifability.

Read Tricia Wang’s response.

Most people who surf the web have seen a wide range of GIFs. Cat GIFs, short scenes from pop culture, various memes. The creators of GIFs take a snippet of something and through mashing, mixing, animating and repeating they produce something like this:

crazy space catburger.

In Gifability, the author outlines several kinds of GIFs. The above being an example of the “mash-up” variety, combining unique elements together. Then there are schmancy type “Art GIFs” which are typically more subtle and polished with high resolution. A third variety, probably the most easily identifiable, is the “frame capture”: it shows a short scene or expression captured and (of course) repeated.

They mention a bit about authorship, and giving credit. Tricia Wang’s responded:

“It would be incredibly disheartening if GIF creators themselves started to focus on receiving credit formally. It would kill GIF culture. Luckily, part of the cultural resilience of GIFs is its distance from the art world at large. … [this perpesctive] reflects a profound misunderstanding of GIFs. GIFs are the popular aesthetic of internet culture.”

I agree: I’ve rarely seen a watermarked GIF, and I say with some confidence that when reposting, no one attributes the source of the GIF. Where would they attribute it to? Thanks to Google you can type in any key word +.gif and find just the thing you’re looking for, weather you’re making a snarky response, illustrating a point, or recalling fondly a scene in your favorite show. Never mind the website it came from, or if that’s the original post anyway.  Anonymity is a part of internet culture, the way memes begin is through endless copying.

Because of the remix nature of GIFs, they have been criticized as non-art. Tricia says:

“…memes are just as ego-driven as any other collaborative art form, like hop-hop. The form in which the ego is validated rests upon a different set of values and outcome. So outsiders, like Bianconi [a critic of GIF principles] or the music critics who overlooked hip hop, are unable to recognize what the new values of ego-validation look like so they dismiss a large portion of the culture as low-art, or non-art in Bianconi’s framework.”

Time and again modern movements of art are dismissed in their age. Van Gogh was written off in his time, but now is highly recognizable, beloved fine art. GIFs may not really be on that level, but my point is that it takes time for culture to except developments (artistic and otherwise). Here in this age of the internet it’s not surprising that GIFs have been largely dismissed as non-art. However, GIFs don’t just spring fully formed from the mind:



They have to be imagined, and then combined/animated. It takes a spark of creation. It may not be the traditional paint-on-canvas or pencil-on-paper art, but if we confine art to traditional methods how can it grow and change? Tricia Wang believes they are art, and I highly agree.


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