The Gif Persists: Bitrates

By: Peggy Nelson
June 2, 2014

Previously on HiLobrow we have examined the resurgence of the animated gif, a marginal art-form that emerged from the simple graphics and limited bandwidth of the early web.


Forever by Daniel Rourke: L↺↻p it!



Seemingly overtaken by better processers and pipes, the gif bided its time and, cicada-like, re-emerged to push the boundaries of its inherent aesthetic of repetition, humor, and mistake-as-art.

And with it emerged something else: the periodic reminder that low-tech approaches can be more persistent and robust than their more resource-intensive descendants.


Internet Party by Morehshin Allahyari: L↺↻p it!



The latest gif sighting is both in a physical gallery and an online space, in بیت بر ثانیه (Bitrates), organized by Morehshin Allahyari and Mani Nilchiani. Bitrates opened on May 23, 2014 in Shiraz, Iran, where it is hosted by Dar-ol-Hokoomeh Project at Shiraz Artist House, and is the first exhibit of new media art in that city.

The significance of the term “Bit Rate” is two fold: On the one hand, every digital art work at one point or the other needs to navigate the bottleneck of “bits”. Ideas turn into bits, bits are streamed over a network, to a screen, or to a tangible output such as a 3D printer to form an experience. While simultaneously, as a generation who sought their exposure to the world outside through slow, clunky dial-up modems, our interaction with the world at large was at the mercy of “bit rate”. بیت بر ثانیه . (Bitrates) draws attention to these ideas through the presentation of the work that engages and explores technology and internet as a medium.

Morehshin Allahyari and Mani Nilchiani

Asked to contribute, GIFbites founder Daniel Rourke invited 50 international new media artists to contribute sounds and gifs. Using several lines of custom code, both gifs and sounds loop infinitely upon page load, happily in and out of phase: IRL for the length of the exhibition’s extended run; and in cyberspace? Perhaps forever…

The GIFbites project is an ongoing examination of the question: what if animated gifs had sounds? The initial stage: create a 15-second piece of sound or music to accompany an animated gif, one you’ve either made or found. The sound may correlate with the gif’s subject-matter, or not; happy accidents, although of course not required, are always encouraged.


Knitted Horse in Motion by Sam Meech: L↺↻p it!



Telepathy by Mohsen Hazrati / محسن حضرتی: L↺↻p it!



Magic Dust by Erica Scourti: L↺↻p it!



GIFbites is a mesmerising homage to brevity and the potential of poor, degraded images to speak beyond the apparent means of their bitrates.

Daniel Rourke

The contributed gifs range from abstract to 8-bit, from selfies to glitch, while the sound loops span ambient to narrative, and everything between and beyond.

And while atm we need to embed the component parts separately on HiLobrow, see the GIFbites in all their looping glory here: (page refreshes every few seconds): L↺↻p them all!


Campanology by elixirix: L↺↻p it!



Exhibition websites:
بیت بر ثانیه Bitrates
Online Gallery (page refreshes every few seconds, or hit refresh to see a new one)
Twitter: @GIFbites

Read more about animated gifs on HiLobrow:
The GIF is back
Paleo GIFs
Inanimate(d) GIFs
The Painted Glitch
Annotated GIF series

And elsewhere:
The Doctrine of the Similar (GIF GIF GIF) by Daniel Rourke
Lars and the Real GIF by Peggy Nelson, in Otherzine #20, Spring 2011



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