New Criticals

Notes on the Apocalyptic .gif


We are bored when we don't know what we are waiting for.

                                                                         Walter Benjamin [1]

Adrian Chen called it “the gif to end all gifs.” Musing on its place among other reaction .gifs, he wondered whether "the internet may disappear completely, thanks to the power of this one compelling gif." Chen hints at the potential existential crises it could provoke as well, speculating that anyone on the receiving end “will probably disable all of their social media accounts and move to a remote mountaintop." Consisting of the phrase, “lol nothing matters”, in a greenish-blue lowercase 3-dimensional font, it "represents an appropriate reaction to 99% of things one sees on the internet."

Listlessly circling itself in digital space, it is angled at what looks to be forty or forty-five degrees (tilting upwards from left to right) and takes about 2.35 seconds to complete one revolution. The 90s aesthetic recalls the old Windows NT 3-dimensional text screen saver.  Since advances in technology have made screen savers obsolete, this .gif is pure ornament. Nostalgic and ruinous, this seemingly insignificant object displays “the twin poles of post-modernism" — the apocalyptic and the retro. [2] The apocalyptic "power" that Chen was hinting at parallels what Benjamin characterized as "the revolutionary energies that appear in the 'outmoded.'" [3] By collecting capitalism's detritus, discarded objects can enter the now, escaping the curse of utility and entering the horizon of "completeness." [4]