Article by Mark Daniels | 20 Jul 2010
  • life turns people

Let’s go back... way back... to when ‘The Pipe Which Makes Fantasies Appear’ made its first appearance. I know what you're thinking, but there’s nothing wacky or baccy about what’s going on here. Let's just reclassify for a moment. We’re talking 180 AD, China and inventor Ting Huan. The pipe in question was an optical device driven by convection that would make pictures painted on translucent panels appear to move when they were spun just so. This was the earliest and most elementary form of the zoetrope, a term derived from the Greek words zoe – life and tropos – turn, and the earliest form of new media.

Jump on forward to 1832, and British mathematician William George Horner invents its more modern incarnation. He dubbed it the Daedaleum, or The Wheel of the Devil (inventors eh?). Thirty years on and all around the world patents were being filed left, right and centre. The zoetrope had come of age. Each iteration of the original invention upheld one basic principle: how to produce an illusion of action from a series of static images. It’s the foundation of modern motion pictures.

Now it’s 2010 and on 29 July the Edinburgh Art Festival kicks off. New Media Scotland is playing host to a zoetrope factory at Inspace manned by Blipfoto, the online daily photo journal. Supported by one of this year’s ten Alt-w awards, their project life.turns. is a community-wide call to action that will put the festival into a crowdsourced spin. They need your help to revive the technology of the zoetrope. Gallery visitors and online participants are invited to contribute their own photographs. Members of the Blipfoto community will be on hand to help, and also output the images. There’s also a dedicated iPhone app you can download for free. The parameters are simple – each image is a still of a person walking. At the end of the exhibition the mass of images collected will be assembled into a film sequence to be deployed on Art Late Night using Pufferfish spherical display technology.

Blip’s founder Joe Tree says, “Blip is made of thousands of individual lives and stories, but the best stuff happens when the community comes together and does something collectively. By working with Inspace to give the exhibit a tech savvy home base, it’s an opportunity to bring digital communities into real spaces, and real people into digital projects.”

Spin the drum faster, if you want to go smoother.