Touring the Excellent ‘Reaction GIF’ Exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image
If you like GIFs (you do, don’t you?), and you’re in New York between now and May 15, you still have time to enjoy a cleverly assembled collection of “reaction GIFs” in an actual museum setting.
“The Reaction GIF: Moving Image as Gesture” is the slightly overwrought title of an installation at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. I had a chance to visit last week, and here’s how I responded:
Reaction GIFs are a notable sub-genre of these tiny recursive images, deployed in online communication as a more visceral way of praising, mocking, or expressing confusion about what others have said or pointed to. You use them to reply to someone you’re chatting with, or in the comments section of an article, wherever: As long as you are reacting, and expressing your emotion in GIF form, you are using a reaction GIF.
The best thing about the presentation? Every reaction GIF is accompanied by a matter-of-fact description of its “meaning.” For instance, this familiar image is “Used to convey surprise, but can also denote sinister intent.”
The nature of a reaction may be more complex: “I value your argument and want to agree with you, but I’m not prepared for the consequences of doing so. Or when having to choose between doing something morally good or right, and doing something you want to do.” That idea looks like this: