Giphy’s Loop Dreams Exhibit Is The Internet In Physical Form

Giphy Loop Dreams exhibit
Giphy’s Loop Dreams exhibit brings GIFs to life Sara Chodosh

If Groundhog Day were a psychedelic dream, it would look a lot like Giphy’s Loop Dreams real-life gif gallery. Neon lights and surreal graphics repeat on every wall, each broadcasting their own unique loop.

Giphy’s Loop Dreams is an actual GIF gallery, opening to the public this weekend in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. Giphy’s gallery will last one day only and includes a panel discussion featuring Giphy founder Alex Chung and a virtual reality GIF museum. The exhibition features 25 artists working in almost every medium imaginable: lenticular illustrations and giant white collared shirts covered in animations from a projector are a couple examples of what can be found on Giphy’s walls.

GIFs as an image file format have been around for nearly 30 years, but their rise in popularity is fairly recent. Giphy itself was founded in 2013, but the proliferation of smartphones have helped GIFs rise to ubiquity. Giphy community curator Ari Spool says one big factor is their reliability. “There’s no better way to text someone a piece of moving art than the GIF–video is too big and unpredictable and takes too long to load.” She says GIFs are a small, efficient file format that load easily on mobile devices. Plus the software for making them has become cheap enough to allow artists to experiment on their own.

But Giphy’s Loop Dreams isn’t about the history of GIFs. It’s about the future. “We want to push the limits,” says Spool. “We want to bring everything into the real world.”

Everything at Loop Dreams was commissioned specifically for this event by 25 of Giphy’s 1,000+ artists. And a lot of what you see on Giphy is commissioned too. The startup constantly culls the user-submitted content to find new artists. One of them, David Berrebi, was plucked from the crowd after being active for just two weeks. Bringing artists into the picture is a big part of Giphy’s mission. “We want to give artists a seat at the table,” explains Julie Logan, director of brand strategy.

We’ll be seeing a lot more original content from Giphy–they’re kicking off a new effort to showcase their artists called Giphy Arts. Loop Dreams is just the first step in merging GIFs and art. As Spool puts it: “GIFs aren’t art. Art is art.”

And if art reflects reality, GIFs reflect them too. “If it’s happening in the real world, we want it to be happening on Giphy,” says Logan.

The exhibit’s organizers hope to show the world that GIFs aren’t just for messaging anymore–it can be an artistic medium, not just a file format. “We’re trying to open up the doors for people to show their work in new places and expose artist GIFs to totally new audiences,” says Giphy director of community Dani Newman. “Anywhere that Giphy is, we want artists to be there with us.”

Giphy’s Loop Dreams exhibit is on 201 Mulberry Street and will open to the public Sunday, October 2 from 10am-6pm.