“...people have always had a tremendous fear about the impact of new technology on language. When the printing press was first invented, people thought it was an instrument of the devil that would spawn unauthorised versions of the Bible.“ - David Crystal, author of Language and the Internet
Culture and language evolve faster than individuals can adapt. Parents worry when their children participate in “new” media. This reluctance is of course not new. From their inception, cartoons and television were purported to “turn kids' brains to mush”. This conventional wisdom spawned years of cultural criticism revolving around the supposed “negative effects” of television, cartoons, and later, the Internet. In his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man Marshall McLuan famously said, “Each innovation is not only commercially disrupting, but socially and psychologically corroding, as well.” Today, there is still fear of the corruption of “traditional” English by the widespread adoption of communication tools like Twitter and texting, which make regular use of abbreviations and shorthand. One only has to think of LOL (laughing out loud) or YOLO (you only live once) which are pervasive terminology shortcuts to traditional communication.
The artists in this exhibition create work that addresses society’s reluctance to embrace new media and language. They will explore this phenomenon through the lens of a complex and rapidly growing medium: the animated GIF (graphics interchange format).
An animated GIF is a multi-frame (moving) image that can be viewed in any web-browser. Used to add motion to simple icons in early web-design, the GIF has metastasized into something more culturally complex. Today, a GIF may be a savvy response in a comment thread, a stand-alone visual joke, or a simple act of teenage vanity. GIFs have become mesmerizing cultural artifacts, and like all such new media they are controversial to the status quo.
Artists such as Jonny Troyna investigate repetition, expectations, and correlation via projected loops, while Petra Cortright’s work suggests a passive and possibly ambivalent attitude towards consumption of media, narcissism, and community. By showcasing work that uses the GIF as a point of reference—whether it be projected, painted, sculpted, or pixelated—the 7 artists in this exhibition challenge audience to think critically about the “fear of the new” in a broader cultural and historical context.
Special thanks to: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York, NY; Casa Magazine, Santa Barbara, CA; The James Irvine Foundation, San Francisco, CA; Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center, Santa Barbara, CA; Santa Barbara Independent, CA; Santa Barbara News-Press, CA; and Wayne McCall & Associates, Santa Barbara, CA.