“Flickering Formalism: The Art of Lorna Mills” presented by Vaughan


Session Title:

  • Technology (Papers)

Presentation Title:

  • Flickering Formalism: The Art of Lorna Mills




  • Acting as both an introduction to and discussion of the new media works of acclaimed Canadian artist Lorna Mills, this screening and talk will provide a survey of Mills’ recent explorations of the animated gif format as well as a look at how her curatorial practice, especially as the key organizer of multiple international exhibitions, have placed her at the centre of the so‑called “gif revolution”. The animated gif is hardly a new art form or format for presentation. However, Mills, who has been dubbed “The Queen of the Animated Gif” by the Spanish art media, is at the forefront of a revival and re‑invigoration of the genre, in both form and distribution. Mills takes what was once a coy (and even twee) form, one previously used exclusively for creating clever but disposable sequences of repeated motions (particularly of adorable animals) and invests the form with a striking sculptural depth and precise, formal composition ‑‑ while at the same time remaining true to the genre’s roots in popular culture and meme‑dispersal.

    As “The Queen”, Mills has curated an extraordinary number of exhibitions, mostly, and by intention, one‑offs and one‑night‑only events, events that have brought together hundreds of artists from dozens of countries – thus exploring, and indeed exploiting, the gif genre’s portability (all the works are internet‑transmittable) as well as the genre’s boom growth as an art form that exists, and thrives, (mostly) outside of traditional systems of commodification, a genre that defeats the formal barriers of customs/international trade. Mills produces a bounty of work that both feeds and is fed by this new world‑wide art phenomenon, and she has no plans to abdicate her throne.

    The presentation will include screenings of recent and early gif works by Mills, with commentary, followed by an overview of her current curatorial projects (including the popular Ways of Something series, which is playing across Europe and employs 60+ artists). After an initial glimpse into Mills’ “world” – one that includes representations of everything from abstracted folds of fabric to strange animal behaviours ‑‑ Vaughan will freeze‑frame individual works and delve into the seeming contradiction between the animations’ surface appearance of randomness, and indeed silliness, and what really lies beneath this initial reading: an arch attention to detail, precise (to the very pixel) sampling, and Mills’ keen application of the core mathematics of composition (it is not accidental that Mills began her career as a high‑realist painter).

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