Two thousand and twelve was and still can be heavily defined by a full fledged renaissance of the Graphic Interchange Format, or the GIF, the 25-year-old image format that was recorded in November as a verb by the American Oxford Dictionary, beating out 'YOLO' for word of the year. From masses of tumblrs looping favorite movie moments, to unsanctioned advertisements by big brands, the GIF caught on big time, coated our eyes, amended our visual lexicon and ensnared a myriad of moments otherwise forgettable and slight into timeless loops.
The first moving image format online, it predated YouTube by decades, allowing the Internet Explorer icon to dance, giving flair to the bottom of endless Geocities pages. But it was also ahead of its time. The GIF stagnated for a while, performing some pretty mundane tasks. For awhile there, its 256 colors collected dust and dithered away.
But it's now hit its stride again, and for many, the modern Internet experience would be lost without it. The latent humor in a GIF, simplistic repetition, lends itself to an endless stream of memes across the web; sites such as forGifs.com, GifSoup, Gifbin and Gif.tv are major repositories. It rides waves through various social contexts, from niche tumblrs to image chatting on Dump.fm. The GIF is sometimes revered as high-art by online communities of motion graphic artists. A decade after people like Paper Rad sang the GIF into a neon renaissance, GIFLords, David Ope, Mr Div and Nicholas Sassoon have curated and produced the format into a kind of net high art. Sad, funny, but true: one of the biggest debates in the web culture this year seemed to be over how to pronunce the word (I say gif, with a hard g, not jif – that's a peanut butter).
In an age where throngs of netizens are uploading images at a rate that should be setting data farms on fire, the constant tweaking of cellphone snapshots to make cityscapes and hotdogs look 30 years older are echoes of an Internet age that calls for more cheesiness and more shittiness and more trickery–more hoo-ha in today's blur of instant aesthetics.
In doing a simple inventory on my little MacBook Air–which is overwhelmed by an eternally open copy of my standard GIF suite: Photoshop, and Screen Record Pro-Lite–I've found some 400+ GIFs that I've made since October 23rd–or–the last time I hucked everything onto an external drive. Yes the habit has taken over different parts of my life. I used to spend more time making substantial art objects, in physical dimensions. But I've truly fallen in love with the craft of the GIF, the sport of the GIF, the frustration of the GIF. GIFs that are too big, GIFs that are too small, GIFs without enough color, GIFs that could never be. The small miracles that are revealed in the process of making GIFs.
My mind is inundated by a psychedelic inner voice that whispers giddily, "Hey–make a GIF of that." So I do. Now I'm reflecting back on 2012, whether its the regular news, something that slipped your mind, something that escaped you completely in the chaos of instantaneous communication and undying bombardment of media. Here they are – little windows into 2012, endless looping hallucinations, until the world actually ends.
January 1st – North Korea tells its people to protect Kim Jong-un as 'human shields' in a New Year message.
January 4th – Obama joined Instagram.
January 11th – Just as Mike Daisey's (fabricated) story about how iPhones are made in China hit the airwaves, Chinese Apple fans turned long lines for the iPhone 4S into mini-riots. Globalization, fabrication and unrest--all in one messy package.
January 13th – Costa Concordia capsizes at Isola del Giglio.
January 27th – Twitter may censor tweets in individual countries.
February 7th – Virtual reality space surgery is here.
February 11th – Whitney Houston dies at 48.
February 23rd – Dozens dead in wave of Iraq attacks.
March 1st – After 26 days of armed assault, Syrian rebels abandon their stronghold in Homs.
March 3rd – Ralph McQuarrie, open-source Star Wars artist, dies at 82.
March 18th – Upset Greek football fans set an Athens stadium ablaze.
March 22nd – Most of Hatibagan, one of Calcutta's oldest markets is destroyed in a fire.
April 9th – Facebook buys Instagram for $1 billion.
April 18th – Dick Clark dies of a massive heart attack at age 82.
May 9th – Vidal Sassoon, British hairstylist known for bringing back the bob cut, dies at 84.
May 17th – Donna Summer dies at 63 of lung cancer.
May 18th – Facebook IPO does not soar.
May 24th – Fringe presidential candidate Vermin Supreme becomes a meme.
May 31st – SpaceX makes the first commercial delivery to the International Space Station, and makes a big splash.
June 1st – Shoenice will eat anything to end world hunger.
June 2nd – The Queen had a jubilee. - (GIF via Virgin Mobile Live)
June 4th – Dutch artist terrifies the internet with his catcopter.
June 13th – Finding sketchy dates online enters the 2.0 era as the other big social network, Badoo, says it surpasses 150,000,000 users and launches a big ad campaigns in the U.S.
June 15th – The GIF turns 25.
June 29th – Moonrise Kingdom opens in theatres and hipster hearts melt.
July 20th – Twelve people are killed and 58 injured at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado.
July 22nd – 50 Shades of Grey, the dirty book of the year, becomes a motion picture.
July 31st – Gore Vidal leaves Hollywood for the last time at 86.
August 6th – Martian rover, Curiosity, successfully lands on the red planet; NASA's triumphant video gets smacked down by a false copyright claim.
August 24th – Two dead, 9 wounded in shootings near the Empire State Building.
August 28th – Japanese river otter declared extinct.
August 29th – Britain hosted the Olympic Games. - (GIF via Virgin Mobile Live)
Septemeber 11th – Americans killed in attacks in Egypt and Libya; the worst viral video ever is blamed.
September 21st – Apple's iPhone 5 is finally released, pro-line-sitter Greg Packer is one of the first to snatch it up.
October 29th – Jimmy Savile, knighted television presenter, dies at 84, paving the way for child abuse claims to emerge, and wreaking all kinds of havoc at the BBC.
November 6th – Obama wins re-election.
November 22nd – Mark Sanchez infamously fumbles after running into his lineman's ass.
November 29th – Motherboard gets a new look, throws a party.
December 5th – Architect Oscar Niemeyer dies at age 104.
December 14th – Devestating Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting takes the lives of 28 people, including 20 children.
December 18th – Ten months after the Facebook IPO, Instagram's new terms of service offer an unfiltered little portrait of what life is like on the increasingly commercial web.
December 21st – We may have come close to apocalypse, but as of 6:11 AM EST this morning, the world is still spinning.
Correction: The Royal Wedding and the Space Shuttle launch appeared in the original version of this piece, however, those events took place in 2011.
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