Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Any Motion?

"... a thing is not seen because it is visible, but conversely, visible because it is seen ..."
- The Works of Plato, Modern Library Edition, 1982, page 46

(also a passage underlined by Diane Arbus, New York Photographer)


"I want to create the type of cinema that shows by not showing."
- Abbas Kiarostami , Film Director from Iran

(We have a saying in Persian, when somebody is looking at something with real intensity: "He had two eyes and he borrowed two more." Those two borrowed eyes are what I want to capture-the eyes that will be borrowed by the viewer to see what's outside the scene he's looking at. To see what is there and also what is not there.)



These notions of visibility play a significant role in ANIMATION, today's class at the Art College in Edinburgh.

We have been introduced to different 'techniques' of animation.

I say, let's make it a workshop for you to play along... ;o)

The IMAX screen is so large that it fills your field of vision. When you are looking ahead you cannot see the edges of the screen. This gives the impression that you are ‘really there’.

IMAX Cinema in Tijuana, Mexico

Find out about your own field of vision:
• Sit on the floor with your eyes closed.
• Get someone to place 15 objects in a circle around you.
• Open your eyes, look ahead and say out loud what you can see.
• Then look around you - what objects did you miss?

When we look at things, we only see one image. This is dispite the fact that we have
two eyes and each one sees a different version of the same image.

Try this exercise out to see how this works:
• Close one eye.
• Hold up a pencil in your right hand and line it up with the straight edge of a door.
• Look at the pencil with one eye and then with the other.
• Notice how the door edge seems to move.

Would you believe, that historians believe that the first animators existed in pre-historic times? They made their drawings move by making shadows on their cave drawings using fire.

An Egyptian wall decoration circa 2000 B.C. In successive panels it depicts the actions of two wrestlers in a variety of holds

The animation that we know today probably came about because of optical toys, which
were invented in the 1800s.


Dr John Ayrton Paris was the first person to create a ‘toy’ that showed images moving.

He produced the ‘thaumatrope’ in 1825.

The thaumatrope is usually a round disc. On either side of the disc is a part of a picture. Spinning the disc means that the picture appears whole. A very popular disc was a bird on one side and a cage on the other. When the disc spins, the bird appears to be in the cage.

Thaumatrope of bird/cage

Can you design your own thaumatrope?
• Cut out two circles that are the same size.
• Draw a picture of a smiley face on one side, and an unhappy face on the other.
• Stick your circles onto pieces of card the same size.
• Stick your cardboarded circles back to back making sure that one of the pictures is
UPSIDE-DOWN to the other one.
• Punch a hole in either side of the circles in the centre.
• Thread an elastic band or piece of string through each side of the circle.
• Spin the circles, by rolling up the string between two fingers.

Can you see how the two images have become one? This is called PERSISTANCE OF VISION.

These first appeared in 1868. Thousands were sold as toys. They were known as the
pennybook. Flick books were sometimes given away as free adverts for new products - like an early version of our tv ads’ today.

One of Martha Alexander's 'Magic Flick Books' published in a series of three by Methuen's Children's Books in 1984.

An excellent - digital - version of a flick book is shown at which you can flick through with your keyboard !!!

If lots of still pictures are passed before your eyes very quickly, you get the impression that the pictures are moving.

Make you own flick book:
• Draw a stick person in the bottom right hand corner of a pad of paper.
• On the next page, draw another man in the same place but doing something slightly
• Do this for on the next few pages.
• Flick the pad from the back.
• The person will appear to move.

A really easy way to make your own animation it to make a penroller.
• Cut out a rectangular strip of paper and fold it in half.
• On the inside sheet, draw a picture of, for example, a dog with its tail down between its legs.
• On the top sheet, draw the same dog with its tail up in the air.
• Wrap the top sheet around a pencil and, resting the pencil on a table, move the pencil quickly backwards and forwards.
• The dog should be wagging its tail!

A zoetrope is a round drum with slits around the top. A strip of slightly changing pictures is placed inside the drum. If you look through the slits as the drum rotates, the picture appears to move.

The zoetrope was one of the most popular Victorian parlour toys because more than one
person at a time could enjoy the moving pictures. It first appeared in 1833.

Zoetrope, as discussed in one of my previous blog pages.
To build one yourself (good fun!), download a preprinted Zoetrope model from



Bin~Jip (= empty house), a film of the Korean Director of "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" and "Samaritan Girl", Kim Ki-Duk.

Director Kim Ki-duk has showcased his potential once again (see Samaria) through this interesting concept where there's barely dialogue, so you don't have to worry about this being a Korean flick. In fact, the lead character, Jae Hee, doesn't utter a word throughout the entire movie.

She leaves with her hero and enters his world of living between society’s lines. They form an unseen bond as they both recognise the similarity of their souls and their “invisible” existence. He lives in the other 180 degrees, we cannot see, behind us.

Kim Ki-duk highlights the sadistic and noisy world by contrasting it with the simple tranquil lives of the 2 characters. The disparity is plainly laid out with the lack of dialogue and strangely enough, it's quite likely that the audience won't even realise its absence until the characters actually speak at the end of the film.
Though the 2 main characters didn't talk, their performances spoke volumes as they managed to communicate a wide range of emotions through mere facial expressions and actions (which I found quite amazing), thus maintaining the audiences' attention.

The soothing soundtrack became a big part of the film as Tae-suk played a certain Arabic song in every home they visited. That particular song is sure to inhabit the audiences' mind even after they leave the theatre. The calming melody combined with the silence of the 2 leads made the whole atmosphere of the film quite fascinating- haunting yet beautiful. On top of that, the audience felt sadness for the fact that their self-isolation was going to be short-lived.

We are constantly reminded of the harsh chaotic world portrayed by nasty characters like Sun-hwa's abusive husband and a couple of aggressive policemen. There were also the occasional random deaths shown in the film, which could cause some discomfort among the audience.
Living in isolation seemed like a form of escape from the harsh reality for Tae-suk and Sun-hwa. Director Kim constantly reminds the audience of the contrast between the 2 worlds, using drastic colours and a variety of locations to suit the particular scenes. For example, dull blue and grey tones were used when Tae-suk was in his jail cell in contrast to the warm red and orange tones that were used to depict Tae-suk's and Sun-hwa's serene lives together.
Though the audiences were mostly left in awe of the film, some might be quite frustrated as they were left with unanswered questions about the sense of reality of the film. The film took an unusual turn towards the end with an incredible climax that put the audiences' subconscious to work. The question of reality and the characters' lives is left to the audiences' imagination.
If you can't read between the lines and prefer straightforwardness, you might not like this film. However, if you're open to unusual concepts and are bored with the usual reality cum romance dramas, this is definitely an interesting mind opener for you.

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