Continuing from my last post focusing on the popularity of the GIF, I looked at how artists are exploring the importance of its format and its applications in their work. In my last article I mentioned that the previous artists I was only able to see their work in a web format, The photographer’s gallery in London was able to recognise the popularity of the GIF and the way in which it’s viewed. I tried my hardest to look for GIF’s making their way into a gallery, as I wanted to consider Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital that we were taught about in our lecture with Colin (see ‘Pop Culture and Contemporary practice (Lecture notes 5)’).  The exhibition ran from 19th May to the 10th July 2012 and consisted simply of a screen situated in the gallery space displaying a range of GIF’s both commissioned by the gallery and submitted by members of the public. The description on the galleries website:

“Part of our extended programme includes a new digital display named The Wall, an exhibition space for screen media. The Wall consists of a 2.7 x 3m Sharp video wall, situated on the ground floor and visible to everyone visiting the building and those passing by on the street.

The Wall forms part of a research programme which aims to explore issues concerning the digital image, its dissemination and display on-screen. The Wall’s programme will include experimental commissions, collaborations and participation.

The Wall will address a unique form of image which is best experienced via a screen: the animated gif. The GIF is an image file format created in 1987 by CompuServe as a portable, low bandwidth image file easily rendered by a web browser. Restricted to only 256 colours, and able to store multiple frames in a single image, the GIF brought animated movement to the static webpages of the 1990s in an era before YouTube and Flash. “

This exhibition highlighted its importance in the photographic digital art world, and again had to be shown ona screen to be appreciated, only accessible as a digital format. ‘the Wall’ originally show cased a selection of artists GIF’s that they chose to represent the medium of the GIF well, but after a while they opened submissions to the public, asking the public to upload it on to tumblr, tagged with #bornin1987,where they would re-blog it onto their own tumblr for the wall, or some selected submissions would be seen in the actual gallery space. The fact that they allowed the public to have submissions for this, and by using a networking platform that allows you to ‘reblog’ highlights how popular the art form is, and not only that how accessible it is to the masses, and how easily the work can be spread.Which resonates some of the things Walker mentioned in my previous post about the mass of the internet sharing them online, rapidly and virally (walker, 2014).

I’m interested by the fact that some of the artists involved in the commissions had never actually created a GIF before, which shows its something that is still continuing to grow. It’s popular enough to start a whole gallery show, but not every artist has tried it yet. I wanted to find a link between this growth and interest and the point when the internet became a genuine human right. It didn’t take me long to find out this information and I was able to find out that the internet became a human right. Through an article on the BBC news in 2010 they wrote “Almost four in five people around the world believe that access to the internet is a fundamental right due to a poll conducted by the BBC World Service (BBC, 2011). Then in 3rd June 2011 the Los Angeles Times published the United Nations report declaring Internet Access as a human right, just a year after the BBC’s World Service poll. This gives me the definite link between the internet as a human right and the popularity of the internet art that is the GIF. Especially as the ‘Born in 1987’ exhibition was just a year after the report was published, this makes a lot of sense. It also makes sense why some of the artist had never made GIF’s before, as at first this surprised me as nowadays its hard to find artists who havent at least dabbled!

Here are some examples of the work commissioned for the exhibition when it was first put up:


Alexa Wright


kim Asendorf

Going back to my mention of Cultural capital being applied, Pierre Bourdieu invented the notion of cultural fields and cultural capital. We allow ourselves to add cultural capital to certain things, make it seem more worthy of our approval or time (Bourdieu cited in Szeman & Kaposy, 2010). Classical music for example would have more cultural capital applied to it that popular music. As internet art is a popular art form shared online it’s easy to understand why this particular art form would have less cultural capital due to its popularity making it considered ‘low-brow’ and little talked about in journals or in discussions of popular art. Galleries are seen as culturally rich places so would automatically have more cultural capital apply. I feel as though when an artist’s creates work to be seen online this is considered, it immediately changes the tone and context due to the cultural capital that applies when working with the internet as a medium.

This exhibition highlights the transition of something with low cultural capital being brought into a realm of highly respected art,  ‘the photographers gallery’, thus transitioning and having more cultural capital apply. This also conveys that whilst the medium of the gif was still online, it did not receive a high amount of cultural capital. I think this exhibition will be very pivotal in my research into internet and its effect on the practice of artists and Illustrators. and looks at the context of the work dependent on where it is placed, kept online, or on an artists web page or blog.

‘Born in 1987’ is a good example of Internet art being admired in a place with high cultural capital place, but to contrast this is the work of a small Tumblr blog, who I found on the same website that I used in the previous worked that recognised Erdal inci’s GIF’s. It’s a small time blog by an anonymous artist and admirer of the GIF, who always places a man in a suit in front of the GIF’s as if admiring them in a gallery, it goes under the name of ‘The Gif Connnisseur’ and still goes today (Examples below). He accepts submissions from the public on his blog which keeps it a community, collaborative project using the internet to not only display but create. For me, although this research doesn’t help my understanding of the GIF’s or learn anything new, but it does provide an interesting contrast to the performance of GIF’s collated in a gallery and the performance of GIF’s collated in an online gallery. They are both essentially celebrating the work of the Gif, but according to Bourdieu the one in a gallery with have more cultural capital. A concept which could be continually explored and argued.

tumblr_nefxh5Lfj01rwk5rgo1_500 tumblr_nefxyzxh6f1rwk5rgo1_400 tumblr_mxf6xwu9OS1rwk5rgo1_500 tumblr_nds62w7Cov1rwk5rgo1_500

tumblr_n9g2hbZMmv1rwk5rgo1_400 tumblr_n9e94sZP8c1rwk5rgo1_500 tumblr_n9g0znUG751rwk5rgo1_400

An interpretation of this work in particular could be that  it encapsulates the modernity of the GIF, not only because it exists on Tumblr, and the nature of the work. The figure in the picture looks typically old-fashioned and is only  observing, not interacting, just watching it move, whilst remaining static. The old stays still, but the new design and technology moves forward and carries on moving. Although this is interesting I will not be continuing my research into this particular webpage, as I think the ex is far more relevant to the movement of internet art, and its correlation with the passing of the internet as a human right. The fact that the gallery uses social media as well as the gallery setting really interests me so I want to look a little further into the role of social media and GIF art.



The Photographers Gallery . (2012). BORN IN 1987: The Animated Gif. Available: http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/the-wall-2. Last accessed 4th November 2014.

BBC. (2010). Internet access is ‘a fundamental right’. Available: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8548190.stm. Last accessed 4th November 2014.

LA Times. (2011). U.N. report: Internet access is a human right . Available: http://documents.latimes.com/un-report-internet-rights/. Last accessed 4th November 2014.

Wilson, J. (2011). United Nations Report Declares Internet Access a Human Right. Available: http://techland.time.com/2011/06/07/united-nations-report-declares-internet-access-a-human-right/. Last accessed 4th November 2014.

http://thegifconnoisseur.tumblr.com/ Last accessed 4th November 2014


Szeman, I & Kaposy, T (2010). Cultural Theory: An Anthology. Singapore: John Wiley & Sons.


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