Rewriting art history. Scorpion Dagger. A “GIF” case-study

Paola Donatiello

(Ri)scrivere la storia dell’arte
Scorpion Dagger: un caso di studio in formato .gif
The New Imageries of GIF Culture
Bologna, 25-11-2016

Who is Scorpion Dagger
(a.k.a. James Kerr)

“I guess if I had to pick one person, it would have to be Maarten Nieuwenhove, painted by Hans Memling” (James Kerr, interview). Photo: Memling H., Dittico Maarten van Nieuwenhove (part.)

Why do research on Scorpion Dagger?

Scorpion Dagger as a case of self-reflexivity and self-historization

Ethnosemiotics: observing images as a necessary research procedure

How does a .GIF work? Paradoxical un(-and-)realistic movement.

Comparing .GIF to drawing, writing, illustration: mimesis and duration

Comparing .GIF to video: immediacy and data-weight

Comparing .GIF to photography: mimesis, immediacy and duration

.GIF and loop methaphor:
.GIF as duration of a key moment vs irreversibility of History

«Après plusieurs répétitions, l’auditeur oublie la cause qui a engendré le son et écoute cet “objet sonore” pour lui-même. Ainsi décontextualisé, l’objet est réutilisable dans des situations différentes» (Pierre Schaeffer).

Scorpion Dagger: irony and the art of making art

Is .GIF just another form of collage?

How does the sense of irony work?

From irony to desecration: re-writing History

Irony: re-writing and envisioning

Irony: Historical and everyday life

Irony as conflict between different discoursive spheres

Ironical discourse as the manifestation of a boundary


Ironic Klein, a sample of merging, the construction of a third point of view

The sense of history, a samplełki

“w/” – Urban dictionary definition






Some outlines: Belting, De Certeau, Greimas, Scorpion Dagger

a tactic is a calculated action determined by the absence of a proper locus. […] The space of a tactic is the space of the other […] It operates in isolated actions, blow by blow. It takes advantage of “opportunities” and depends on them, being without any base where it could stockpile its winnings, build up its own position, and plan raids. What it wins it cannot keep.” (De Certeau, The practices of everyday life pp. 35).


Belting, H.,
1983     Das Ende der Kunstgeschichte?, München, Deutscher Kunstverlag (tr. it.: La fine della storia dell’arte, o la libertà dell’arte, Torino, Einaudi, 1990).
2001     Bild-Anthropologie: Entwürfe für eine Bildwischaft, München, Wilhelm Fink (tr. it., Antropologia delle immagini, Roma, Carocci, 2011).

Clifford, J.,
1988    The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art, Harvard, Harvard University Press; tr. it.: I frutti puri impazziscono. Etnografia, letteratura e arte nel secolo XX, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri, 2010.

Clifford, J., Marcus, G.E.,
1986    Writing the culture: politics and poetics of ethnography, Berkley-London, University of California Press.

De Certeau, M.,
1980    L’invention du quotidien. I Arts de faire, Paris, Gallimard; tr. it.: L’invenzione del quotidiano, Roma, Edizioni Lavoro, 2010.
1982    L’invention du quotidien. II Habiter, cuisiner, Paris, Gallimard.

Greimas, A.J. & Courtés, J.,
1979     Sémiotique. Dictionnaire raisonné de la théorie du langage, Paris, Hachette.
1986     Sémiotique. Dictionnaire raisonné de la théorie du langage II, Paris, Hachette.

Goodman, N.,
1978     Ways of worldmaking Goodman, Indianapolis-Cambridge, Hackett (tr. it.: Vedere e costruire il mondo, Roma-Bari, Laterza 2008).

Kerr, J.,
2014     Scorpion Dagger James Kerr. Do you like relaxing?, Montreal, Anteism.

Manovich, L.,
2001     The language of new media, Massachussets Istitute of Technology, tr. it., Il linguaggio dei nuovi media, Olivares, Milano, 2002.

Scorpion Dagger
Tumblr || Facebook
Paola Donatiello
Intervista a James Kerr aka Scorpion Dagger (Doppiozero)
versione italiana || english version

How to pronounce GIF


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