24 April 2012

Lorna Mills

I'm pleased to present an interview with Lorna Mills, who has been working with the GIF format since 2005. Lorna uses different ways to create her animated GIFs, a well known one is from the huge research she makes on the Internet about viral videos, images and even found GIFs, then she manipulates it to create her animated collages to show to the viewer her own story, her own world. I must say Lorna's work is great and funny, I love to see at her work and see how all those situations are put together. But it is not always funny Lorna works can be offensive, profane, sexy, violent, bizarre.. You will find a great variety of content on her pieces, as she says; men and women wanking with rubber dolphins, masturbating kangaroos, animals humping inanimate objects... more into the post!

Lorna Mills has actively exhibited her work in both solo and group exhibitions since the early 1990's. A founding member of the Red Head Gallery, her practice has included obsessive Cibachrome printing, obsessive painting, obsessive super 8 film, and recently, obsessive digital video animations incorporated into restrained installation work. See more;

Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I'm a Canadian artist, with a fair number of exhibitions in a variety of mediums over the years. I've also worked as a game programmer since 1994, starting off in children's CD-Roms, before moving to web based programs. (I also edit video for IPTV and iPad delivery) In spite of these skills I am more nerdish about WW2 and Cold War history than I am about technology.

When did you start to create loopable animations?
Probably around 1994, but they were all done in Director and delivered on CDs and floppy discs. Many were interactive, but ultimately interactivity didn't excite me as an artist. (That said, I enjoy a lot of artists who are coding right now) By 1998 I was making looped video work, but it took me until about 2005 to fall in love with gifs. A few years prior I had became friends with the artist/writer/publisher/curator Sally McKay, who's intellect leaves most of us behind eating her dust. She invited me to join her and post on her blog which at the time covered art/science/ideas. (so I gleefully set out and destroyed it from the inside.)

When I started really looking closely at her GIF work, I saw the potential for making gifs from my own video sources. Prior to that tiny epiphany, gifs meant 8 bit graphics to me, and though I was aware of a lot of artists making GIFs, I didn't really enjoy using graphic tools.

Most of your animated GIFs are collage compositions made from videos, pictures, and other GIFs found on the internet, do you also record videos and take pictures to make them?
Yes I do some work from my own footage, but the tone of that work is very different from my found gif collage work. For the last 7 years I've acquired the habit of shooting all my video footage with animated gifs in mind. To anyone but myself that footage is absolutely incoherent and dreadful.

I guess you have a huge archive of GIFs, videos and pictures, what kind of content you look for collecting them?
Yes it's huge and growing all the time, I spend almost two hours a day looking for new ones. First of all, I'm attracted to the same inane stuff that all the other 8 year olds on the internet like. (I take a bit of comfort in sharing base and common taste.) I have a good sense of the ridiculous, so extreme and inane activities appeal to me, cross-species sexuality, vehicular accidents, men and women wanking with rubber dolphins, masturbating kangaroos, animals humping inanimate objects, animals who smoke, people fighting, animals fighting, pro wrestling and owls doing absolutely anything. What I call near-porn has a greater spark of excitement than blatant pornography.

Your pieces represent different moods, some are very funny, emotional, or bizarre. They all tell a story or situation. What do you want to convey to the viewer?
I'm not always sure of that, but for the most part, absurd perpetual conditions, obsessions, perhaps puzzlement over and recognition of 'otherliness'. The shaky camera work in my own footage was always intentional, a way of acknowledging a human presence behind the technology, mimicking the rhythms of heartbeats and breathing.

A thin but very important thread that has tied all my work in different media together for over 20 years has been my belief that the particular and peculiar can expand to universals which, at an alarming rate, contract right back to the particular and peculiar - basically, constant oscillation punctuated by the odd abrupt rhythm.

I like your style and the aesthetics you use by cutting out these images, they usually presents hard pixelate edges. Do you work frame by frame? Which software/tools/technology do you usually use to make/move/animate/edit/export them?
Frame by frame, like an idiot. I was bored by the relentless four edges on my gifs and wanted to make them occupy a web page in a more interesting way, so I started marqueeing out the backgrounds at 90 degree angles with little care for cleanliness. (It also added another level of movement to the gifs.) I compose the separate animations in Flash and then export as a GIF again. That's where a ridiculous amount of precision comes in; playing and replaying so that they work together in an interesting way on every frame. (I can obsess on a 2 pixel shift for hours) I use Photoshop and Fireworks for resizing and colour manipulation, and I love simple animation programs like Easy-Gif Animator Pro ('pro' being an empty endearment, it's a pretty basic software)

You usually work on short loops, but I have noticed you don't mind about their size, do you care about the weight of your GIFs, is the weight an important factor for you at the time to upload them on the internet?
They absolutely have to exist on the internet first before I change their context for real life projects, it's the conditions of the net, economy and compression that makes the gifs more interesting to me than just straight up video. I've been a bit self-indulgent with the size lately. My host has a small upload limit per file, so I used to get around it by uploading separate gifs and composing them on the page with html, but now I just store bigger gifs elsewhere and hotlink them. I do care about the weight but I also know that people that only have dial-up aren't that interested in what I have on offer, so I make stuff for broadband. (and excuse me sir, but you are a fine one to talk about gif size!)

Where do you usually feature them? I saw them on your website but more often at Google+ , does G+  help you to promote them?
I only think of promotion as posting exhibition info on G+ and Facebook. The rest of the time I'm making gifs to throw in the G+ streams, so it doesn't feel like promo, it just feels like participating in a community of gif makers. On my own site, the gifs are just posted as I make them. Sometimes I wonder if I should do a more net-art aware site and tie everything up in nice neat little conceptual bows, but right now I couldn't be bothered to make that effort.

Is there any source of inspiration?
Mostly seeing what my contemporaries are making, but more importantly seeing the original public unattributed gifs grabbed from viral YouTube videos, network news, movies etc.

Could you tell us one of your favourite GIFs from you and another from other artist or just an artist you like who use this format? 
I know so many terrific artists working with this format, but Francoise Gamma's work is very special he/she (damn enigma.) is making figurative gifs that can be simultaneously elegant, sexy, graceful and tortured, qualities I love, even if I constantly fall short in my own work. (Francoise Gamma's work http://francoisegamma.computersclub.org/)

As for something of my own, the most resonant for me was the following set below. The images are little piles of jewellery and ornaments in my mother's bedroom that I shot the night before she died. I had left the hospital late that evening, and I just remember standing in her bedroom and thinking that all these assembled things would be dismantled and dispersed in a matter of days, so in those moments they were vibrating (or perhaps that was just me). It didn't matter to me that the light was crappy for video, or the stuff was so ordinary, I knew the work would have some subtle power. (some of my non-artist friends are a bit shocked that I was thinking about making art that night, but that's what we do, if we can)

Tell us a bit about your latest or ongoing project. What about Sheroes #9: Dolly Parton? 
First of all, Sheroes is the invention of the extremely generous and multi-talented salonnière, Rea McNamara. It's a monthly limited-run performance event series that frolics in the aesthetic playground of media fandom such as fan fiction, fan art, fan videos, fan costume play etc. http://fuckyeahsheroes.tumblr.com/tagged/sheroes-9%3A-dolly-parton

Rea had already produced the first two in the series, when she approached me about programming projections of animated gifs. I admit that I was unsure of the project at first, there's a part of me that cringed at expressions like 'sheroes', 'herstory' and 'mythic female', all that debased coinage from a previous generation of feminists, but she won me over when I saw how she was embracing it with so much smart humour and energy. I think we only invited about six artists for the first gif projections, but they were so enthusiastic after seeing the event documentation that I got the confidence up to invite more gif artists to participate. Eventually Rea just left the GIF aspect of the events in my hands. What we now have is an ever expanding crew of gif makers, (we are up to 29 for Sheroes #9) that includes many well known active net-artists, as well as younger artists, both male and female, from all over the world. Previously, my own taste in exhibitions/events was more towards small tightly focussed curatorials. Inviting serious artists to participate in fan culture has had some surprising results, though no one should be surprised that serious artists want to do their best work no matter what, or that the work gets better and better.

Lorna Mills