Born in Canada, raised in the Chinese tradition, and based in New York, interdisciplinary artist Sougwen Chung has created an interactive, animated font called Kinecdysis that you can experience first-hand here. Recommended for polymaths, poets, and prophets, Kinecdysis is inspired by “the motif of ecdysis (from Ancient Greek: ἐκδύω, ekduo, to take off, strip off).”
Chung’s statement explains, “At the epilogue of transformation, what remains? Ecdysis is the process of shedding or casting off the exoskeleton in invertebrate organisms. As a metaphor for writing, it is in equal parts an assemblage, homage and exorcism of the self in all its prior iterations. It is the verbal vestige that forms the story of our private ecdysis… within it, the narratives that contain the modicum of our memory.”
You can view the entire animated gif alphabet here.
Forty years ago, Richard “Dick” Balzer saw his very first magic lantern – an early image projector invented in the 1600s. This encounter would prove to be the start of an intense preoccupation with early animation technology. Following this discovery, Balzer began collecting magic lanterns and other optical toys, eventually amassing thousands of illustrations and machines that can now be found at his Boston-area home. His collection includes literature concerning the early animation machinery, as well as 150-year-old optical toys like henakistiscopes, zoetropes, praxinoscopes, and other “scopes” and “tropes” derived from the Greek words for “viewer.”
According to Balzer’s site, “There was a period, the last seventy five years of the 19th century, when scientific experimentation based on the phenomenon of ‘the persistence of vision’ in which the brain retains the impression of an object for a fraction of a second after its disappearance creating the possibility of apparent motion.” These early animation toys and machines sought to merge images to create uninterrupted motion. “We’re all interested in seeing movement,” says Balzer. “It was a different time, but the same challenge: How do you make things move?” These early animated loop illustration toys and machines mark the beginnings of the animated loop file we frequently encounter on the internet – the gif.
Five years ago, Balzer began digitizing his collection with the help of LA-based animator, Brian Duffy because he wished to share the early animations with a larger audience. So far, Balzer and Duffy have digitized only a fraction of the collection (which they periodically upload on Tumblr) due to the trial-and-error process involved in getting the speed of each animation just right. The creators of the early toys and machines probably never anticipated that their images would become as widely and immediately available as they currently are through the work of dedicated people like Balzer and Duffy.
The Verge notes, “Balzer refrains from theorizing about how his archival work may influence others, or what it might say about digital art and visual vocabulary today, noting that there are several other organizations undertaking similar efforts. His goal, he says, is to simply share his passion with as wide an audience as possible while preserving works of art that may have otherwise been forgotten.”
Balzer says, “I mean, these are just extraordinary feats of animation that took place more than 150 years ago.” “And if you’re just holding on to them, I think you should share them with other people.” (via the verge and wired)
In master paintings, beauty lies in the romance of an instant, with movement expressed only through form, balance, and color; for the animation artist Rino Stefano Tagliafierro, emotional potency is lost in immobility, their dramatic narratives lost to the stationary canvas. By animating famous Renaissance, Romantic, and Neoclassical paintings using modern technology, he revels in the joy of storytelling through art.
In his video Beauty, Tagliafierro uses mostly Academic paintings, relying on the balance and mythos of Neo-Classicism and the sentimentalist nature of Romanticism to celebrate the female body in motion. Animating mostly paintings by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, he heightens the sensuality of the work by adding slow, gentle movements and soft musical notes. The delicacy of both the young female and the mother figure is exalted to the angelic, her creamy flesh revealed through the coy lifting of her skirt.
Tagliafierro subverts the traditional gentleness of his woman subjects by including Baroque heroines, whose rapid movements only heighten their power. In Caravaggio’s Judith Beheading Holofernes, we are given the just moment of impact, left breathless in the moment before the kill; in his adaptation, the modern artist affords viewers the satisfaction of closure, allowing Judith’s weapon to effortlessly glide through the neck of her enemy.
The gifs of Caravaggio’s Isaac and Luis Ricardo Falero’s witches, played in a loop, relieve viewers of the suspense of the famous biblical and mythological images, allowing us follow a visual story that moves from terror to a sort of redemption. The human body is seen as a creative force, in constant flux between tension and release. (via Design Boom)
If you regularly tune in to Adult Swim, Austin based illustrator and animator Dax Norman‘s work may look familiar to you. Evoking a trippy aesthetic reminiscent of Mad Magazine and “The Yellow Submarine,” Norman’s gifs ooze and pulse with bright, fun energy. Citing classic and current influences and favorites such as Max Ernst, Man Ray, Van Gogh, Shel Silverstein, William Blake, Neil Anderson-Himmelspach, Reverend Bobby Anger, David Olive, and Joseph Noderer, Norman creates animations informed by popular culture and the world around him, as well as animations that represent strangely and wonderfully original characters, figures, and shapes.
Norman first started making gifs by re-purposing existing longer animations into loopable snippets, but as the form started to grow on him, Norman began creating original gifs, trying to finish a new one every day. He creates both 2D and 3D animated gifs that deal with alternate and multiple perceptions of reality. Of his animations, Norman says, “I see them each as ‘little paintings,’ or ‘picture poems’ each with its own universe of movement…Playing with the looping idea, and rhythm, is what appeals to me the most. Hopefully… people can hear something in my moving pictures, even though there is no sound.” In addition to his extensive archive of gifs on Tumblr, Norman also has full video animations available on Vimeo as well as a Tumblr page dedicated to demonstrating his process of creation.
In 2011, illustrator and graphic designer Mailka Favre was commissioned by Penguin Books to illustrate the new Deluxe Classic Cover of the Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana. Using the first 7 letters she illustrated for the commission as a starting point, Favre decided to develop the full set of the alphabet, resulting in a racy Kama Sutra typeface. After creating the designs, Favre worked with animators to turn her images into actively coital gifs. Inspired by the everyday design and fashion she encounters in London, Favre’s aesthetic is bold and colorful, with clean and simple lines and curves. Favre admits she often wears the colors she uses in her designs, and she’s unsure which design choice influences which. Because her designs are so simple, Favre has to approach her work with a strong concept, something that is elegantly evident in her Kama Sutra alphabet. Each letter of the exhibition is available for purchase as a limited edition of 25 screenprints, numbered and signed by the artist.
Hugo Germain, a French student who studies math and physics in order to become an engineer, also creates images and animations inspired by these very fields of study. Germain typically comes with a concept and makes a quick doodle before he begins to create his gifs using After Effects or Cinema 4D. Germain explains,
“Each gif has its own story but mainly it’s a way for me to provide inspiration and make people question basic things we take for granted. I often wonder “What if this or that was different/existed ? What would that look like ?”. Being able to actually create an answer to that question is very exciting for me, and I guess that’s also what people like about it.”
Applying his engineering skillset to the art of animation, Germain’s gifs are a playful fusion of wonder and execution. (via really shit)
Under the name Scorpion Dagger, British artist James Kerr creates digital gif collages, mainly from northern and early Renaissance paintings. Kerr combines this imagery with images from popular culture, resulting in absurd and humorous animations.
“What I hope people feel/experience when they see one of my GIFs is something of both an amused reaction, and that of wanting to look at art differently…I love looking at images and imagining them differently. Essentially, you know that question where people ask ‘What do you see in that painting?’ Well, this is kind of that but expressed through an animated GIF.” (via the daily dot)
Merry Gifmas! London based artist and designer Ryan Todd has curated a collection of Christmas gifs over at the aptly named christmasgifs.org. The project features work from an international group of illustrators, animators and directors. Most of the animations are stylistically conceptual or humorous, with bright color palettes and hypnotic loops. You can check out Todd’s Christmas 2012 collection here.