Imagine the delight around 180 AD when the Chinese inventor Ting Huan showed off his chao hua chich kuan, the first known zoetrope. It was powered by heat convection and was called the pipe which makes fantasies appear. Moving images. Did it change the storytelling of its day? Was it ever that widespread? What if Beowulf had been narrated with this technology to emphasize when Grendel comes?
We’ve watched motion technologies mature throughout our lives — even in TV ads and movie trailers, and on cinema screens, hand-helds. There’s live action, animation, FX, 3D animation, 3d live action, reality and Forrest Gump… And it’s all in a delightful genre-busting ferment.
And wait,that’s just the visuals. Motion’s our modern modus operandi. Cars on freeways, missions to Mars, robots that sidestep, fly, raise an eyebrow… We’re heading into an era where we could be mixing it up not only with robots but with holographic projections, gendarmes in invisibility cloaks, androidal offspring.
Today we’ll stick with the visuals, a huge enough field and rich with wizards.
I’ll showcase a pair of motion artists — because they’re so unalike — and because they’re both so good. We’ll start with the Turkish animator Gökalp Gönen and then go to the ZEITGUISED team. What I love in both is the yeasty imagination, the push to go beyond Beyond.
Gönen is a splendid animator, an artist with high standards who makes me happy I’m an artist too. This work, with all its polish and nuance, is presented as student work. If he keeps going at this level I expect he’ll become a formidable force.
There’s a Beavis-and-Butt-head standard of animation that moons artistic skill, and does so quite skillfully. Gönen heads in the other direction, and seems to have a kind of mind-meld with his software. His work is full of grace notes. I love the warmth he bestows on his characters and the unexpected little twists in his storylines.
He gets the magic right — charming but never twee.
Güveç by Gökalp Gönen via Behance
funismagus by Gökalp Gönen via Behance
Now if you flip this same animation coin, drop it in a wormhole and catch it in a neighboring universe, it will bring you to the motion graphics of ZEITGUISED. A German-based duo, an American and a German:
Unspoiled by formal computer graphics training, ZEITGUISED have been pushing their own rules onto computer aided art by creating a dense universe parallel to motion graphics, drawing heavily from fashion photography, sculpture, installation and architectural set design.*
They must have fun because their work is so playful. Brainy-playful. The soundtracks they use (not necessarily by them) are apt and unexpected, conveying part of the meaning of the piece. So often soundtracks are Muzak, there to keep the viewer entertained while the visuals spin by.
The ZEITGUISED artists are fearless, flinging themselves into what-ifs with a gleam in their eyes. I love their freewheeling work. Can still remember when I first saw QCC — it’s so utterly itself. So from an unimagined world — that’s now alive in my imagination. That’s powerful.
QCC by ZEITGUISED via Behance
Peripetics Ex Machina by ZEITGUISED via Behance
Note that none of this is Walt Disney cel-based animation but a vigorous outgrowth of the 3D computer graphics industry, unthinkable in Disney’s heyday. How far off is the day when 3D content will be free-floating objects we interact with in our daily lives? Free-floating art objects we interact with as part of daily life?
• This is a sample quote from a ZEITGUISED About page here. A pleasure to read in this land of overwrought artists’ statements.