Twohundredfiftysixcolors is a silent, 97-minute film comprised entirely of animated GIFs. It features looping images of Beyoncé, Slavoj Žižek, Pizza Dog, 9-11, Eadweard Muybridge’s pre-cinema animations, ASCII, dinosaurs on treadmills, meme-bits, early Internet artifacts, and artist-submitted works.
Let’s start with some loading graphics.
For two years, Chicago-based artists and directors Eric Fleischauer and Jason Lazarus, along with curatorial assistant Theodore Darst, collected and organized thousands of GIFs, dug out of the fringes and the heart of the Internet.
“We structured the film in a way that creates a sort-of ‘narrative arc,’” Fleischauer explains. It traces the evolution of the GIF through its common themes and uses, tying it to the history of cinema and powering through aesthetics and pop culture. “Mainly, we were harnessing the power of montage to make connections and collisions between different GIFs to generate new meanings or ideas about the GIF from all these individual files. In some ways, the effect is orchestral, where all these individual parts are working in concert with each other to generate a dynamic portrait of the file format.”
Along with archival digging, the directors invited submission of original or found GIFs and made a restriction-free open call to artists and non-artists alike. As a result, the film’s credits include a slew of well-known digital artists, including Cory Arcangel, Bunny Rogers, Eva and Franco Mattes, Petra Cortright, jodi.org, and many more.
“In a lot of ways the artist-made GIFs were pretty stale compared to all the weird stuff Jason and Eric found,” Twohundredfiftysixcolors curatorial assistant Darst says. And they found some very, very strange things. Darst’s favorite? “There was a GIF of security cam footage of a guy getting robbed and then peeing on himself that was so funny and scary at the same time. I don’t know if it made the final cut, but I really liked that one.”
To Fleischauer, this demonstrated both the accessibility of the medium by a “deskilling of production” and the creativity of individual artists’ approach to the format. “It also gives those outside the ‘Art World’ a platform to join the conversations digital artists are engaging in online.”
Twohundredfiftysixcolors makes its way to New York on October 5th at the UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art in Brooklyn.