How would you define the concept of an optical illusion? Filmmaker Samm Hodges attempts to explain the phenomenon in his new video, "Illusions," a dazzling survey of optical trickery that recounts visually confusing images like the Spinning Dancer and the Necker Cube.
The definition provided by Hodges and his video production team, Animal, is that mind tricks are "two perfectly valid truths, but you can't see both," he says in the video above. "Your brain will choose one and lock on it. That's the nature of illusions."
Check out the video for a trippy trek down op art lane. Accompanied by music from bands like Airhead and Fennesz and narration by Bingo O'Malley, a Leonard Nemoy voice doppelgänger, the six minute short film is a visual and auditory treat; the first of seven in a new series.
We had to begin with the man who put optical illusions on the map, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/17/mc-escher-birthday_n_1591432.html" target="_hplink">M.C. Escher</a>. Escher was not a formal mathematician by any means (he only had a high school education in the subject), but he was fascinated by the visual identity of mathematical concepts. Working mostly in lithographs and woodcuts, Escher explored the relationships between shape and space, interlocking figures in multi-dimensional planes and eternally spiraling spaces. In "Relativity," one of Escher's most famous works, several identical, egg-headed characters are depicted roaming up and down endless staircases that seem to defy the laws of gravity. Image courtesy of Taschen Books.
Italian artist <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/aldoaldoz/" target="_hplink">Aldo Cavini Benedetti</a>, inspired by <a href="http://www.mcescher.com/" target="_hplink">M.C. Escher's work</a>, creates 3D models of impossible objects. Drawing from Escher's lithograph, Benedetti <a href="http://youtu.be/F7kdOQBKRGg" target="_hplink">created his own working model</a> and shows the viewer how the optical illusion works from multiple perspectives in this video.
Cloud Gate, the 110-ton elliptical sculpture created by Anish Kapoor, is currently <a href="http://explorechicago.org/city/en/things_see_do/attractions/dca_tourism/MP_orinigal.html" target="_hplink">installed in Chicago's Millennium Park</a>. Formed from polished stainless steel plates, onlookers see a distorted reflection of their surroundings on their structure as their image is reflected back from varying perspectives. (Photo credit EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
This acrylic painting by <a href="http://mizuma-art.co.jp/artist/0010/index_e.php" target="_hplink">Japanese artist Makoto Aida</a> deceives the eye. Titled AZEMICHI (a path between rice fields), the viewer looks down the evenly parted hair of a pig-tailed girl and sees a narrow country road, bordered by tall grass. Image courtesy of Mizuma Art Gallery
Japanese student <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/27/chooo-san_n_1624628.html#slide=1140563" target="_hplink">Chooo-San</a> takes body paint to the extreme with her doodles-turned-optical illusions. The DIY aesthetic of her photographs mixed with her Surrealist body mutations look like a cross-pollination between a Facebook timeline and Pan's Labyrinth. Although the mind-bending body alterations look digitally made, she only uses acrylics. Image courtesy of Chooo-San
At the Guggenheim museum in Venice, a three-sided glass structure in a courtyard draws in visitors because of its mirrored edges. The reflective glass doubles objects or people seen on the opposite side of the installation when viewed from a particular angle. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dweinberger/4036198633/" target="_hplink">Image via Flickr</a>)
A Flickr user photographed this mind-boggling optical illusion during an art exhibition on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Although the cartoon-esque <a href="http://www.nga.gov/feature/sculpturegarden/sculpture/sculpture15.shtm" target="_hplink">house by Roy Lichtenstein</a> appears to have four walls and a door, it's actually created by three angled surfaces as <a href="http://youtu.be/jIpdajUHVtI" target="_hplink">seen in this video</a> that walks the viewer around the sculpture. (<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/8507625@N02/5843251648/" target="_hplink">Image via Flickr</a>)
A visitor walk along the piece of art called "Down The Rabbit Hole" by Rasch at the Arts Decoratifs museum in Paris, during the exhibition "Trompe l'Oeil." The art technique used in the piece uses extremely realistic imagery in order to create an optical illusion so the depicted objects appear in three dimensions. Four hundred pieces are presented in the exhibition which runs from February 2, 2012 till November 15, 2013. (Photo credit FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)
French artist François Abelanet installed a rather large optical illusion outside the Paris City Hall entitled "Who to Believe." The piece was an 100-meter-long oval of grass, but from a certain angle looked like a 3D sphere. Check out the video to see the making of the dubious earth art.
No list of optical illusion art would be complete without Jos de Mey, the Flemish painter who experimented with impossible objects and optical illusions in his work. Along with many other artists, de Mey also drew inspiration from <a href="http://www.mcescher.com/" target="_hplink">M.C. Escher's work</a>, often incorporating some of Escher's characters into his work. The video below shows an overview of his phenomenal work. (Excuse the Dutch).