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The Morning GIF: Mathematically minded

Archery takes GIFs back to their roots.


Fernando Alfonso III


Posted on Nov 21, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 6:59 am CDT

From a basketball player opening a bag of Skittles to a cat yawning, GIFs have gone so mainstream that anyone can turn anything into an animation with a few mindless swipes of a smartphone screen.

Yet through all of the GIF noise, Tumblr GIF artist archery has brought the 25-year-old image format back to its roots, using mathematics to assemble stunning animations of choreographed lines, pulsars, and waves.

“Mathematics is all about relations—how things are related. I like math because of its clarity and precision. It has the ability to efficiently capture an idea, but still manage to do so rigorously,” archery, 24, told the Daily Dot. “There are many ways to describe something using language and other mediums. Each of these ways have their own merits, but with mathematics we are able to get a description that retains a certain truer essence of that thing we are describing.”

Archery started his GIF art journey two years ago when he wanted to explore the moiré pattern, an interface pattern created when two grids are placed on top of one another at different angles. Since then, archery, who asked to keep his identity private, has created more than 500 original animations using the Mathematica program, a sophisticated computation program created by Stephen Wolfram of Wolfram|Alpha fame. Each mathematical pattern takes about 15-45 seconds to create using Mathematica and a 2.4 GHz Intel Core i5 processor computer. Each GIF varies but typically consists of 15-30 black and white frames.

Most importantly, each GIF must loop seamlessly. Because, as is often the case with complex mathematical problems and life, the end should be a challenge to find.

“GIFs that have this property exemplify another essential feature of the loop which is its ability to make some event seem timeless or eternal. Exploiting this feature of gifs offers interesting and creative directions for art itself,” archery wrote on Tumblr. “It’s almost as if the existence of the GIF is to serve us through all of this immense information and media exchange we may be subject to on a daily basis. Again, this necessity is met by the GIFs ability to loop. Like, we need to be reminded that its really just these short finite moments in our experience we really care about, and this reminder is reminding us repeatedly right after it reminds us over and over again.”


GIF by archery/Tumblr

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*First Published: Nov 21, 2012, 11:19 am CST