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O Magazine
2015-2017

A spontaneous canon

By Gerard Casau

In the GIF we have before our eyes, an individual is ready to leave his house when he realises he can’t remember where he left his keys. In a minute, he grabs a chair and a rope and hangs himself from the lamp, so his whole life passes before him at vertigo speed until he visualises the moment in which he put the key ring inside the pocket of his shirt. Having solved the problem, the guy unhangs himself and gets out the door as if nothing had happened. “To everyday problems, extreme solutions”, could be the title of this brilliant gag, created and drawn by Bill Plympton and included in his short film Sex & Violence, which in its concise eight minutes manages to fit in no less than twenty-four sketches. The one in hand takes less than half a minute: very little in terms of film length, but practically an eternity in GIF language (in this sense, it’s almost as shocking as Today Is the Day).

What might the person who created this GIF have been thinking about when he did it? It was probably a well-meaning Plympton fan with no other pretension than sharing this fragment with the whole world, granting it a new life in a digital environment. And he probably wasn’t the only one to feel this impulse, for a simple search of the terms “Plympton GIF” takes us to a great display of the occurrences coming out of the imagination of this US artisan animator: kisses as passionate as scarcely normative, picturesque body games, questionable ways of proving the saying that carrots improve our eyesight, alternative versions of The Simpsons title credits… Indeed, a catalogue of the great moments that Bill Plympton’s career has given us, generated involuntarily and spontaneously by the individual contributions that didn’t see beyond the scarce seconds of their favourite snap but which, as a global photograph, conform a canon of the artist, surely less reflexive than the one that might arise from critical consensus, but with greater capacity for reaction and for an introduction of amendments. Although, yes, so much immediacy entails a quite important weak point: deep down, these GIFs don’t share a knowledge, are just fetishes with no author mark whatsoever, so if a casual surfer stumbles upon these cartoons, he’ll probably have to unravel a thread of Reddit to find out who on Earth is behind all the animations cheering up his screen in a loop