The team behind 15folds talk digital art, first GIF encounters and their current exhibition, ‘Everything All At Once’

Re-envisioning the way we both view and interact with art, a few weeks back the team behind the 15folds GIF collective invited internet users worldwide to submit their own self-designed moving creations to be in with the chance of winning a spot at an exhibition. Following the theme ‘Everything, All At Once’, the exhibition which launched in London this week, marked the first ever GIF exhibition showcasing the cream of the technicolor crop. We catch up with the 15folds team to talk digital art, first GIF encounters and art-viewing behaviour.


When did you start viewing GIF’s as an art form?

We’ve always been aware of the potential of GIF’s as an art form having used them in our personal work for a long time. Sean exhibited a series of GIF’s on old TV sets for his final degree show a few years back and Margot’s graduating piece was a GIF / web based short story. Jolyon works with the Internet where GIF’s are a visual language in their own right. In both instances we saw the potential in the medium but were aware of its limitations when it came to exhibiting them as pieces. As 15Folds we really recognised the medium as one that belongs to our generation, the internets creative output, like the zine was to club culture in the ‘80s.

What do you think makes GIF’s so exciting right now?

There is something mesmerizing and hypnotic about watching images on a loop at speed. If you watch it long enough you start to notice other things in patterns and sequences, almost like being in a trance. GIF’s are a hybrid of stills and film and provide an opportunity to say something more in a completely unique, dynamic way. They are also very easily shareable on email / imessage and can live on people’s blogs and websites like posters in a bedroom.

So what about the concept for 15Folds, where did it originate and why is it called that?

The idea revolved around the old surrealist parlour game exquisite corpse, where one person draws the head, then the next draws the shoulder, the next the torso and so on. We wanted to see how this concept could be interpreted with gifs, and that’s how the first few months started. The name [15Folds] is a homage to the folding of the paper as it is passed between the players. We were really interested in how creative minds could flourish using an online visual medium and wanted to commission a mix of great thinkers, not all necessarily artists, to make GIF’s in response to one another. We decided to build our own GIF’s maker to allow people who weren’t familiar with the medium to participate.

Is that why you decided to curate an exhibition rather than display the works in their native, online?

Since its inception we had always pictured the project expanding beyond the browser. We worked with Plague Projects who developed the AR app – a completely unique way of looking at gifs that still felt connected to the internet. It enabled us to bring the artwork into an IRL environment, away from multiple browser tabs and social media distractions but staying faithful to the idea that GIF’s are a medium that can only exist digitally.

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How have people been interacting with the GIF’s in the exhibition?

We’ve had an incredible response. Using your phone is usually prohibited in a gallery. What we have found is by making people use their phones for a specific purpose, it has created more social interaction. People sharing screens, chatting while the app downloaded taking photos of people taking photos etc. It’s been really amazing to watch how the technology has really brought people together. It a new kind of interaction and it’s created a new kind of art-viewing behaviour.

Does that mean you think that GIF’s have the ability to engage more than traditional artworks do with an observer in our current digital (3 second attention span) climate?

There is room for everything, we are offering a unique way of viewing a relatively new art medium and are really excited by the possibilities of how this can evolve and where digital art is going to head. A lot is said about peoples attention spans but if something is good, if it’s honest and it connects with people, they will give it time. A lot of our ‘scan’ culture can be put down to the fact that so much of what we see isn’t really worth looking at. Digital art can be critical of all of this and encourage us to question our digital habits and the new norms that are developing.

So we might see a transition in the way we absorb art?

I thinks it’s about time the traditional art world had a bit of a shakeup! What the Internet has provided is a platform where there are no rules – everyone who has an idea or a voice can participate without the weight of precedent and history. The ‘net’ aesthetic is developing but yet to be defined. It can be anything from chic to absurd, which is something we tried to reflect in the title of the exhibition and the artwork itself ‘Everything All At Once’.


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