twohundredfiftysixcolors is an experimental feature-length video made entirely of animated GIFs that traces the file format’s arc of increased complexity and pointed use since it was first introduced thirty years ago, in 1987. Crafted from more than three thousand animated GIFs, twohundredfiftysixcolors is an expansive and revealing portrait of what has become a hallmark medium of the contemporary moment. Once used primarily as an Internet page signpost, the file type has evolved into a nimble and ubiquitous tool for pop-cultural memes, self-expression, and artistic gestures—a social, political, and cultural vehicle. The work is a curated archive that functions as a historical document charting the GIF’s evolution, its connections to early cinema, and its contemporary cultural and aesthetic possibilities.
The artists would like to specially thank project curatorial assistant Theodore Darst for his creativity, dedication, and support.
Note on the acquisition process from the artists:
In order to represent the breadth, diversity, and spirit of the GIF, the filmmakers employed a three-tiered approach toward acquisition. First, a multitude of cultural producers (GIF makers, filmmakers, artists, designers) were contacted asking for submissions of original and/or found GIFs. The invitation encouraged recipients to pass along the email to others they thought should contribute to the project, or would be interested in participating—an approach both viral in style and rhizomatic in spirit. Second, an open call to the public for original and found GIFs was extended without restriction. Third, Fleischauer, Lazarus, and curatorial assistant Theodore Darst were themselves perpetually collecting and organizing GIFs during the two years of the work’s production.
This mode of acquisition was driven both by chance (encountering the stream of GIFs emerging daily online) as well as by specific ideas that emerged as the work’s “narrative” arc evolved and its structure solidified. More than anything, this project aims to situate the public’s ambition, imagination, intelligence, and wit as instrumental in driving this new fold within the long tradition of moving-image history. Without their efforts, this project would not have been possible.
In a time of embedded lives and networked culture, where the screen acts as a mediator between the self and perceived reality, technology has ostensibly become an extension of the body, changing our relationship to space, ourselves, and others. Digital Bodies is a one-year program that features videos by artists who use and manipulate digital technologies—mainly computer-generated images, signs, and systems sourced from digital platforms—to reflect on how these technologies have impacted our everyday lives and changed the ways we relate to the world. Given our current state of constant digital expansion and acceleration, these works express the pervasiveness and indispensability of digital culture in shaping our daily interactions.
Digital Bodies is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Carla Acevedo-Yates and Steven L. Bridges, Assistant Curators. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Alan and Rebecca Ross endowed exhibitions fund and the MSU Broad's general exhibitions fund.