IN ITS tenth year, PULSE is dedicated to innovative technology and art. The perfect combination of the two is the GIF, the moving image that's not quite a photo and not quite a video.

Art Rise Savannah celebrate the versatility of the GIF at the second GIF Festival on Jan. 28, held in the Jepson atrium.

"GIFs are an amazing intersection of art and technology," explains Clinton Edminster, executive director at Art Rise Savannah. "Because of their inherent restrictions, it forces artists and the audience to interact in new and different ways."

For those unfamiliar with the medium, GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format and is a type of bitmap image format. Basically, it's an image that moves, but it's not a video since it doesn't have sound, and the image is on an infinite loop.

The festival started last year when Telfair, the sponsor of PULSE, approached Art Rise and asked them to develop an off-site event, which then moved onsite after a different event fell through. The nonprofit's brainstorming sessions led them to the idea of a GIF festival.

Back in December, Art Rise put out a call for entries for any and all GIFs.

"The criteria was basically that it had to be a GIF," says Edminster. "We're interested in exploring the diversity of the GIFs that are out there."

At last count, over 500 animations will be on display and include everything from video clips to memes to brand-new forms. Last year, over 960 images from artists from 150 countries were featured.

The brevity of the format forces a GIF to be focused — though it loops, the viewer doesn't have time to dissect meaning and analyze stylistic choices. Any longer than a few seconds, and the viewer will wonder why it isn't just a video instead. Too short, and the viewer quickly scrolls by.

"GIFs have become a response to the quick-scrolling culture we find ourselves a part of daily," Edminster muses. "It's not a video, but it's not a picture. It's right in the middle of being too long or too boring."

While it seems overzealous to say that GIFs are changing our perception of the world, the innovation they foster opens the door for more art forms that may change our perspective on the world.

"Technology is an extension of ourselves and an amplifier of our innate human abilities — technology is a tool. Art is an exploration of these tools without purpose," says Edminster.

"It's exploratory, playful, silly, mundane, useless, but art always explores and experiments. In another sense, especially in more cognitive and conceptual art, we use it as a means to understand our world and how we think about it,” he concludes.


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