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PULSE: GIF Festival
Inaugural event offers Funny, Creepy, Trippy, Weird, Ambient categories
Anne Horel, France,'Funny'

GIF Festival @PULSE

Sat. Jan. 24, 6 p.m., Jepson Center

Free and Open to the Public

UNDER the auspices of Art Rise Savannah, the first annual GIF Festival will be a part of this weekend's PULSE Festival at the Jepson Center. Dozens of entries will explore the artistic and conceptual limits of the now-ubiquitous low-res short-length Graphics Interchange Format, first pioneered in the late '80s by Steve Wilhite while working for Compuserve.

The best GIF in each of five formats will win a “Golden Floppy” Award. We spoke to Art Rise’s Corey Eisenberg, GIF Fest curator, about the event.

1. We hear the idea for this was originally going to be part of an Art Rise Savannah seminar on Artificial Intelligence, before PULSE invited you to be a part of it?

Corey Eisenberg: Yeah, like PULSE, we also wanted to celebrate the mix between art and technology. Originally we were coming up with satellite shows to sort of piggyback off PULSE. For the AI seminar we were discussing how robots will be making art and the jumping off point to thinking about how now so often we don't know who's making art, the creators are often anonymous.

GIFs, for example, don’t really belong to anyone. Anyone can post one anywhere and the original creator is usually totally unknown. A lot of traditional artists, of course they want to be recognized. But in terms of GIF art or a lot of digital art today, that’s not going to be the case. The creations immediately belong to everyone.

Colin Raff, Berlin, 'Creepy'
Colin Raff, Berlin, 'Creepy'

2. So we’re talking about a whole bunch of really short entrants. How will audiences enjoy this bounty of brevity?

Corey Eisenberg: The vast majority of them are 10 seconds or under. Most of them will be looped. For example, you may have a GIF that's only about a second long, so if you only watched it once you wouldn't get much out of it.

There are five categories: Funny, Creepy, Trippy, Weird, and Ambient. What we’ve done is come up with an edit for each category, which will run back to back to back, with live musical performances along with it. Basically a score. So as not to overload people with visual information, there will be about a five minute intermission between each category.

Kristyn Janae Solie, LA, 'Trippy'
Kristyn Janae Solie, LA, 'Trippy'

3. Did you open up the entry process to regional and national applicants as well as local?

Corey Eisenberg: It's international, actually. There are a lot of local entries as well. They're mostly students, but not just limited to SCAD. We've received a lot of Armstrong and Savannah State student entries as well, which has been great.

Matt Semke, Minneapolis, 'Weird'
Matt Semke, Minneapolis, 'Weird'

4. How does the rise of the popularity of GIFs chart with the general decrease in attention span with digital communications? Twitter, for example, or especially Vine?

Corey Eisenberg: Yeah, it's similar, a Vine is seven seconds long. It's about how we express ourselves in a quicker way. A lot of it is just about self-expression.

We’ve met up with the digital age in terms of attention span. In terms of any storytelling being able to be concise is a huge skill. It’s a virtue to be able to express a single idea so clearly.

Visual Eyes, 'Ambient'
Visual Eyes, 'Ambient'

5. Settle the debate once and for all: Is it pronounced “giff” or “jiff?”

Corey Eisenberg: It's pronounced "Jiff." Apparently the original creator of the format wanted it to be pronounced "Jiff." During the Webby Awards the creator did an awards speech by playing a GIF telling the right way to pronounce it and it was "Jiff."