GIFs are the gifts of imperfection in GIFFEST 2023

Published on 09 June 2023
By Team Catch

Ready, fire, aim. The basketball falls just short of the goal, bouncing against the rim before careening away. No big deal – it’s worth taking another shot.

Yet another miss. Followed by another. And another. After a few more tries, the success rate is a measly 20 per cent, at best. 

And the icing on the cake? Once in a while, an eyesore in the form of a disembodied hand sticks out of the goal, deliberately flicking the basketballs away with just a single finger. 

The entire scene replays in a never-ending loop. It is an animated GIF, to be exact, the same ones that pervade the everyday online sphere. And just like the GIFs we use to communicate our feelings when words fail, it has something to say. 

“Not everyone gets a perfect throw. Sometimes you just gotta keep shooting your shot,” says the artist, who goes by the handle @haha.hariz on his Instagram page. 


  Wide shot of an installation at GIFFEST 2023

Themed “Imperfect”, GIFFEST 2023 unveils works from the whacky to the contemplative.

He is one of many artists who responded to an open call on Instagram to contribute their GIF art to the biannual GIFFEST, curated and organised by education platform EYEYAH!, which returns for its third edition at the National Design Centre. True to its theme this year, “Imperfect”, the interactive exhibition features over 50 animated GIFs by local and international creatives that firmly resist the modern cult of perfectionism, which continues to be a major source of stress, anxiety and unhappiness in the world. 

 Wide shot of an installation at GIFFEST 2023

GIFs take the form of various styles of art, from the hand-drawn to the AI-generated

In fact, it embraces the total opposite. To these artists, imperfection, from both the perspective of design and as a social issue, should not be synonymous with failure – it can be productive and inspiring, revealing unexpected opportunities for growth, creativity and discovery.

It makes perfect sense that GIFs are the chosen medium to communicate this message too. What started off as a lowbrow, low-quality and crude way of animating logos and small emoticons is considered not just a popular and effective mode of communication, but a democratic art form today.

 Wide shot of two installations at GIFFEST 2023

Many exhibitions are accompanied by quirky interactive elements.

Compilations of these GIFs are displayed on various screens in the quirky, maze-like exhibition. From hand-drawn to AI-generated GIFs, the artists push the boundaries of the GIF form through experimentation and – you guessed it – unabashedly welcoming imperfection into their creative process, glitches and all. 

But GIFFEST 2023 is not one to limit its horizons – the artworks are complemented by interactive elements. In a corner of the exhibition is a black mirror that visitors can stand and pose in front of, as a motion-sensing device captures their image and transforms it into an abstracted reflection in the mirror. 

While somewhat humanoid, the reflection is, in reality, constructed purely out of stacked shapes, as if suggesting that we are ultimately just a clump of cells, and that societal standards of beauty are arbitrary.

 Wide shot of an installation at GIFFEST 2023

Celebrate this unique expression of art as you wander through the halls of GIFFEST 2023.

At the end of the day, expression and communication are integral to the function of art. And what better way is there to express yourself than with a good old GIF?

GIFFEST 2023 is open to the public for free from 18 May to 26 August 2023 at the National Design Centre, Atrium (Level 1).

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