All that Glitters

September 14, 2010

Animated GIFs of the 1990s were rarely perfect. They either moved too fast or too slow, "jumped" at junctions, or contained forgotten pixels, like the famous hula girl. Take a closer look at the queen of homepage graphics, erotik.gif. The way she moves her gams up and down is very convincing, but it is against everything we know about anatomy.

Yet no matter how funny and unprofessional early animated GIFs appeared, they were animated. The figures or objects were in constant action—running, dancing, rotating around the sun, or working on an endless construction. With the new millennium came new GIFs, glittering and blinging graphics created with new tools called glitter graphics generators. The principle of these was to take a static image—photo or graphic—and decorate it with all sorts of glittering-sparkling "stamps," from stardust to rotating necklaces. As a result, animations became shiny but static.

This animation trend is a symbol of today’s amateur Web, and is currently leaving the frames of GIFs behind and having its moment on the big screen of contemporary art and pop culture.

In the beginning of 2010, the Web artist Petra Cortright made a two-channel video installation titled :' |._ ~**~ _.:' |._ ~**~ _.: (sparkling I & II) .*` .* ;`*,`., `, ,`.*.*. *.*` .* ;`* As the title suggests, there is a lot of sparkling going on in the videos, which feature a girl wearing sunglasses interacting with her tropical backyard. Every movement the girl makes produces more and more glitter. Half human, half blingee, she is a hero of our times, the idea of the cyborg revised for Web 2.0.

In the summer of 2010, the famous music video director Harold (Hype) Williams used glitter in a masterly fashion in his latest production for the British singer M.I.A. The video transmits the full experience of a proper Myspace profile: a hardly moving pretty girl, framed by stars, gems, and other shiny elements. “This looks like a MySpace comment page disaster!” claims a commenter on

Web folklore collector Saskia Aldinger is taking it one step further by using YouTube players as glittery accents. Tiny and floating around on her page in the same manner as the GIFs of rotating plastic crystals next to them rather than a marker of “content,” the videos seem strange at first. But indeed, why should Web videos today be regarded as more luxurious than animated GIFs? Both formats offer millions of animations, are easily applicable for decorating home pages, and don't use a lot of bandwidth compared to what we can afford to burn.

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1.steve mcqueen
September 22, 2010 11:47 PM
On a sidenote re: music videos, check out Hervé - Together. The GIFs don't really sparkle, but they are used prominently and good for a laugh:

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