Alexandre Serrano, O’s contributor.
One of the things I love the most about the GIF format is the way in which it continues preceding folklore forms. Like those, it appropriates without hesitation already existing materials and re-signifies them in poignant and unexpected ways. It’s the case of the animated image we’re talking about here, taken from a sketch by American musician and comedian Weird Al Yankovic. Indeed, what he described as a “stupid trick” to entertain his friends has become an unbeatable sequence -and used as such in virtual threads- to show charlatans up.
This is not surprising, since it reveals the seams of uncountable areas of human activity. The ruse with which so many disciplines and reasoning pretend to be much more than they really are. The glitz used to cover commonplaces so as to present them as innovative and counter-normative, senseless or older than the hills ideas with a patina of wisdom and revelation. Anyone who has ever attended the corporate presentation of a human resources department or is familiarised with certain urban development jargon will know exactly what I’m talking about. But not only that: hot air and simulacra have metastasised everywhere. Political chitchat -old and new-, nutritional fraud, cheap psychology, parascience about almost anything… As for the sinking of journalism in the breakwater of clickbaits, I’d rather leave that for another day, because the comparison is almost too painful. And is there anything left to say about the imposture of haute cuisine or contemporary art? And what about the digital economy trick? There are already so many vulgar ladles they’re trying to disguise as floating globes, so many candidates to appear on “La Contra” section of La Vanguardia, that should we push it a little further there would be no profession or ideology left to offend.
Having said that, if the metaphor is perfect it’s because it has its own instructions for use. There’s something clearly histrionic, flamboyant and phoney in the GIF illusionist. An excessively ridiculous display that warns us there’s something fishy going on since minute one. It’s something we identify no problem because we know the parodic tradition being quoted. But the really magical thing about it is that this method to detect fraud will work with anything really: when we’re compelled to supress our critical sense, the emotional takes hold of the scene and gesticulation becomes discourse… wow! On the other side, a little less than usual, there’s someone ready to mess around. With themselves or, much more often, with us.