Almost forever: Finnish artists plan exhibition of 1000-year GIF animation

The last frame of the "As Long as Possible" 1000-year GIF animation by Finnish artists Juha van Ingen and Janne Särkelä

Online culture magazine Hyperallergic brings us some excellent news: Helsinki, Finland based artists Juha van Ingen and Janne Särkelä of the FixC cooperative are preparing an exhibit of a 1000-year long animated GIF loop.

The work, titled “AS Long As Possible” (ASLAP) features 48,140,288 frames, in an homage to composer John Cage’s “As Slow as Possible”. Cage’s work has been playing continuously on an organ in a church in Halberstadt, Germany since 2013. The music will continue until 2020.

With each frame lasting around 10 minutes, “AS Long as Possible” presents only a minimalistic white counter of each frame’s position in the loop until the year 3017. The font used is a particularly blocky, pixelated one, which carries some resemblance of the FixC cooperative’s Teletext art. Being a loop, the GIF will restart once finished.

If you’re in Helsinki right now, it’s worth taking a glance at preview prints of the ASLAP project. Prints are on extended display at FISH Gallery in the Kallio district until September 26.

The "As Long As Possible" animation and a preview file at FISH Gallery, Helsinki in 2015. Pic by FISH Gallery.

The “As Long As Possible” animation and a preview file at FISH Gallery, Helsinki in 2015. Pic by FISH Gallery.

Engineering our understanding of durability?

The primary exhibition of the work is still being prepared and its launch should coincide with the celebration Finland’s 100 years of independence in 2017. Plans for ASLAP aren’t set in stone but initial ideas include having a master file that can be synced and replaced.

At Ink Tank, we hope the work will be online, so that the suburban lawn of Watching Grass Grow (est. 2005) can get a worthy successor as our favorite art installation.

A 1000-year GIF animation provides the sort of digital weirdness that is bound to raises some uneasy questions. As Juha van Ingen says in his interview to Hyperallergic:

“We chose to make the loop 1000 years-long because it is a duration people can still relate to, and yet, it is long enough to stimulate the person to think about time in a way which we normally don’t,” van Ingen told Hyperallergic. “If nurturing a GIF loop even for 100 — let alone 3,000 years — seems an unbelievable task, how much remains of our present digital culture after that time?”

We’re certainly following As Long As Possible on Facebook and Twitter. You probably should too, if only to see wether these services can house a channel for van Ingen’s and Särkelä’s art even through your own lifetime.

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