An experiment, converting John Woo’s “The Killer” film into a long animated gif, complete with soundtrack:
GIF89a was the standard format for images, mostly porn, distributed in bulletin board systems (BBS) in 1990s. Many remember the characteristic appearance of dithered low-colour images saved in GIF89a format, optimized to take as little space as possible to facilitate distribution over pay-per-minute modem connections or on 3,5” high density diskettes (1,44Mb). Contemporary internet culture still makes use of GIF89a as short animations embedded on websites. As the history of moving image formats is defined by JPEG and GIF89a is deemed ‘incompatible’ with the properties of moving photographic image, the aesthetic range of the latter in a cinematic context has remained unexplored.
killer.gif consists of John Woo’s 1989 classic Hong Kong triad movie The Killer (喋血雙雄), broken into 1747 GIF89a animations, divided according to color spectrum modulations. While this is to facilitate optimisation to a restricted palette, allowing distribution on diskettes, it also creates an alternative punctuation operating sometimes in parallel, sometimes in a stark contrast to the cinematic language of the director John Woo and the producer Tsui Hark.
killer.gif critically interrogates remix culture by claiming independent status based on a seemingly simple format conversion. However, by way of conversion, killer.gif proposes a McLuhanian experiment in alternative technohistory. While the disappearance of photographic detail into the tingling visual surface of Floyd-Steinberg dither initially distances the audience from the narrative the patterns that emerge from the GIF89a optimised presentation cast new light on the triad killer trying to come clean.
Soundtrack and subtitles are left untouched to control the experiment to focus on visual surface only. For this submission the conversion has been recorded and exported into a Matroska Media Container file to facilitate easy screening. Please note that at the curator’s request it can also be screened directly from GIF89a format or presented as a video installation.