The uncanny GIF

Ever since reading Jonah Winer’s Slate piece on animated GIFs at last month, I’ve been watching for fresh versions of the this ancient web genre. They’re deprecated, I know—Facebook doesn’t allow them, presumably because they’re a reminder of declassé MySpace pages, the look of the early social media. But a well-crafted loop animation can unsettle like few other kinds of images. They’re like the daguerreotypes of online imagery, exhibiting an uncanny power transcending their rudimentary technology. I find the landscape GIFs of Jaime Martinez fascinating for their anti-sublime effect: loops of clouds shuddering over a valley or trees quivering at the edge of a pond seems to turn nature into a wind-up toy. But it’s the tumblr If We Don’t, Remember Me, with its loose, subtle loops from great and challenging films, that has really caught my attention. Whoever is composing the loops has a subtle eye; often, she lets the animation linger immobile for a long while before dropping any movement—as with the frame from Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 Solaris, above. Other GIFs at If We Don’t, Remember Me isolate the flutter of an eyelid or the drift of hair in the wind. They’re little abysses carved out of time, which present themselves as visual riddles of our mechanical nature: One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest‘s Nurse Ratched shooting an endless stream of daggers from darting eyes; Audrey Tautou’s Amelie brandishing a spoon like it’s a murder weapon; Lost Highway‘s Mystery Man aiming a video camera with infinite palsied steadiness. It’s an astonishingly subtle and flexible medium—carved out of a technology devised for delivering annoying jokes and flashy pix over sketchy dialup connections of the Web’s earliest days.

[If We Don’t, Remember Me via Geekosystem]

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