Translation, Visual Language and GIFs

Ladan Bahmani

Along with emojis, GIFs have dominated social media as a way of instantly translating our emotions into short videos. In addition, these looped animations have the ability to translate and present a scene in a different way. Using time and repetition, they decontextualize a moment and in doing so eliminate or add meanings to it. Emojis and GIFs are our simple visual language and form of expression which transcend textual languages, connect people together, and create empathy.

I have always been fascinated by the power of these simple visual elements in creating deep connections and generating meanings. As part of my exploration in visual languages and translations mediated by technology, I am planning to create a series of GIFs to narrate my residency experience. I am interested in exploring the unique ways that a short video of a situation can be manipulated and changed when repeated. “The GIF takes one element of experience and highlights it; what would have been a 2-second scene in a full episode on TV now becomes the entire piece. It is a new perspective on a familiar situation, and we cherish that.”

Within this study, I explore the following questions: how can the visual language of GIFs translate and rewrite an experience? How can I create a visual language using only GIFs? What would be lost and gained when a moment within an experience translates into a repeated GIF form? In what ways this collection of the GIFs could inspire new narratives? What variables could manipulate the translation of a moment in a GIF format?

During the residency, I invite the participants to create their own short looped GIFs and add to the collection. I will present the collection of the GIFs in a web page, allowing myself and the participants to translate the experience into a new story. The new narratives and the GIFs along with my own answers to the above questions will then turn into a digital book. Besides writing conference proposals based on this exploration, I plan to showcase this piece as an interactive installation in a gallery.