ARTS & CULTURE

Artist Transforms Zoetropes From Retro Visuals To The Stuff Of Fine Art

02/20/2015 08:13 am ET | Updated Feb 20, 2015

Remember zoetropes? They may be a bit before your time. The zoetrope, derived from the Greek root words for "life" and "turning," is an optical toy invented before the days of film and cinema. The tool displays a progressive sequence of drawings or photographs, thus creating the illusion of motion. Most often the images are arranged on a cylinder which then spins, setting the pictures spinning.

While zoetropes experienced their heyday before the dawn of motion picture technology, one contemporary artist is bringing the retro medium back in a radical new way. Meet Eric Dyer, the modern master of the zoetrope.

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"To me, zoetropes are like time sculptures -- film and animation all contained within a single object," Dyer explains in a video profile made by Creative Capital. Using simple materials and somewhat bizarre subject matter, Dyer crafts hypnotic objects that seem to spring to life before your eyes, the happy marriage of an Eadweard Muybridge motion study and a carnival carousel. "This is sculpture come to life," the artist continues.

Before working with zoetropes, Dyer worked in television, film and as an experimental animator. Yet there was something about the tangible thing-ness of a zoetrope that captivated the artist, something so contrary with the slick screens and touch pads we're so accustomed to.

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Dyer's newest artistic endeavor turns the tactile joys of the zoetrope into a fully immersive experience. He's crafted a Zoetrope Tunnel, a three-dimensional spinning space that allows an animated vision to swallow the viewer whole. Participants enter the space with a flashlight in hand, and proceed to shine a light on a constantly shifting visual environment. You're "essentially moving through the sculptural film," Dyer explains in the video below. Check it out to learn more about his background and upcoming project.

Take a look at stills of Dyer's work below and stay tuned for more information on the Zoetrope Tunnel, seeking museum and institutional partners, to come.

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Eadweard Muybridge (NSFW)
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