twohundredfiftysixcolors is hard to discuss without any outside exposition. It’s not a “film” so much as it is a collection of thousands of GIFs played back to back in a somewhat loose progression with no sound, no music, nothing – just GIFs ranging from tiny loading circles to pizzas spinning on turntables.
It’s because of the film’s artistic nature that makes it difficult to essentially review what it is that it’s doing. Instead of reviewing the film, I’m going to attempt to discuss what the film attempted to do and my thoughts on that. If you’re ready for the ride, hit the jump, and let’s explore the fine world of animated GIFs.
Directors: Eric Fleischauer and Jason Lazarus
Screenings: April 18, 2013 and April 21, 2013 (Chicago; ticketing information here)
sixhundredfiftytwocolors is reliant on its artists’ statement to understand what the film is about, or at least what it attempts to do; without it, you’ll find yourself wondering what exactly is going on. Fleischauer and Lazarus’ statement reads as follows:
twohundredfiftysixcolors is a 16mm film that traces the arc of increased complexity and pointed use of the animated gif. From an internet page signpost, a tool of multiplying internet memes, and finally a place for considered artistic gestures (created within this medium’s conceptual and technical parameters), this relatively obscure filetype contains an abundance of historical information and contemporary implications to be unpacked.
Curating and filming these pixels from the domain of the internet signals a new form of movie making and acknowledges the complexities embedded within these highly compressed files. Placing them in the proximity of a history that influenced and drove their invention and continued re-invention, latent connections emerge begging a reconsideration of the animated GIF’s relationship to early cinema. Over a century later, this re-imagined form of animating stills begins to look familiar and informs the evolving cultural production of film, video, and other time-based media.
The film is a curated archive that, when screened in a collective viewing environment as a cinema event, becomes revelatory for discussion, analysis, and conjecture on the animated gif’s current location and future trajectory.
There is no narrative or explanation within the film itself, instead just an hour and a half of various GIFs playing from beginning to end. However, with the context of the artists’ statement shaping the film, I found myself finding these connections that Fleischauer and Lazarus were attempting to make.
A loose, chronological progression is made over the film as it literally starts with loading animations before moving into simple GIFs that are nothing more than stills “animated” by rapidly looping the images back in forth. This harkens back to early cinema when films were simply called “moving pictures.” And really, is that not what films technically are?
The tandem between the progression of GIFs and film progresses along through the film. Instead of simple, early internet GIFs, more ambitious, creative GIFs are showcased, such as full movie scenes animated into GIF loops and cats flying around in the sky with a rainbow trail following behind them.
twohundredfiftysixcolors does not only just comment on the art form of film, but on our contemporary use of art, media as a form of art, and interactions on the internet. Presently, there are a ridiculous amount of absurdist GIFs floating around that we share with our friends on a near-hourly basis (of which, a staggering amount have been collected and curated in this very film).
What used to be used as nothing more than forum signatures set on fire or glowing with glitter have evolved into mainstream use amongst our friends. A bit of a parallel arises with the film form itself where its use has evolved to more than simple projection in a theater – film and film production aren’t held back by analog production/projection, but have begun to come from various sources.
Because of the discussion that twohundredfiftysixcolors encourages/relies on, it could easily be suited in a contemporary art museum as a video installation. In fact, it is better suited for such an environment. However, Fleischauer and Lazarus opted to showcase twohundredfiftysixcolors as a film to further blur (and enhance) the line that both connects and separates cinema and GIFs. If the film tours around the country and you’re interested in the connection between GIFs and film, I suggest checking out twohundredfiftysixcolors… and stick around for the discussion, too.