The First Animated Gif in Deep Space Is NOT Boring

June 18, 2013 | Marina Galperina

Germany-based conceptual artist Kim Asendorf  makes undulating, hypnotic, complex gifs.

Then why did he send this gif into deep space? Why is this seemingly uneventful gif’s signal being beamed into deep space right now via the Lone Signal METI (Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) experiment, on its 17.6 year journey towards the potentially habitable solar system Gliese 526? Why?

Because, as Asendorf tells ANIMAL, “Choosing the most beautiful gif would be so boring. Ridiculously boring!”

“This guy is my favorite,” Asendorf says, of his gif Humans Watching Digital Art. “I recorded this during an exhibition in 2011 with an Apple display that was showing digital art. I have a large series of those, but the whole piece is still unfinished.”


When NY’s Serious Business asked Asendorf to submit “anything,” he thought, “‘Who cares?’ but then, I had the idea to be the first human sending a gif into deep space. And it had to be controversial! So, I went with this guy people can hate… or even love, like me.” It may be subtle, pedestrian even at first, but the act of observing digital art is very explicit in Asendorf’s chosen gif — not just in his features, pursed and concentrated, but literally, as red flashes softly into white over his face. He is reflecting the work.

“He looks so really into it. I can’t explain. That’s why I call it love.” To Asendorf, he fits perfectly with METI’s experimental initiative. “Imagine, we on Earth would receive a digital encoded message from space. We would bring the smartest people on Earth together to decode it. Finding something like a gif like that in it? The thought of that makes me happy.”

Why gifs? Why space?

“I like gifs because they are so simple and effective. I like loops in general. And the theories of Heinz von Foerster. It’s science on a meta level,” Asendorf explains, shouting out the Austrian American philosopher-scientist and cybernetics founder who was also very found of loops. “Thinking about space is very important for my mind. Everything on Earth is so little, but that topic is too huge to answer it right away. I would need to start in German about it…”

I asked Asendorf for his favorite von Foerster quote. “‘In any case, it is clear that if the laws of nature can be written by us, they are invented. That is easy to demonstrate, but we already know that.’ I just translated that from German.” He would say that. Asendorf coined the term “pixel sorting” and made the gorgeous glitching visual technique an open-source, so everyone could reorganize pixels and essentially, reprogram nature.

So, shelf your knee-jerk reactions of “Why isn’t this gif exploding all up in my face?” or “Why isn’t it communicating some sort of physics formula demonstrating our intelligence and eligibility for higher alien species approval?” or “Why is this not a beautiful high art piece of some sort from some museum of some sort that sort of simmers our cultural human significance and taste down to a gif, sort of?” or “Y NO CATZ?” If someone did find this message, this is what they would look like: Perfect cosmic meta.

Finally, I asked Asendorf who he is hoping to be the audience of his gif?

“Probability would say… nobody.”

That’s ok. Space gif? Someone down here loves you too.

(GIFs and pixel-sorted Earth: Kim Asendorf)