Friday, December 28, 2012

FlipBooKit Rekindles Kinetic Motion Art

The first thing that comes to mind when anyone mentions a "flip book" is its origin as a primitive form of animation. But after the initial spark, individual memories vary.

Some people remember making doodles in the corners of a notebook starting in grade school. Others recall picking their first flip book out of a box of Cracker Jacks. A few might think about those vintage coin-operated machines that used to be commonplace at amusement parks, one of the earliest forms of moving pictures.

It's something between the latter design, a mutoscope by Herman Casler, and a later invention, the filoscope by Henry William Short, that inspired artists Wendy Marvel and Mark Rosen to recreate an artistic exhibition based on the motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge. By placing flip books in a hand crank or mechanized box, Marvel and Rosen could tell artistic stories in 24 frames.

FlipBooKit marks a resurgence in kinetic arts. 

The result was a stunning series of gallery-caliber work, featuring original motorized flip books made out of found objects. But as the work was exhibited and well received, Rosen and Marvel discovered they did more than resurrect a kinetic art form. They were at the forefront of rekindling a lost medium.

With so many people interested in telling their own 24-frame stories, Marvel and Rosen began to kick around the idea of a DIY kit that would make the medium more accessible. To make this dream come true, they enlisted the help of former Disney Imagineer Steven Goldstein. 

Goldstein, a product designer with more than a dozen patents, worked with these artists to make mass production possible. Inside every kit, would-be artists could find a buildable box, hand crank spindle, and 24 frames to tell any story they might think up. 

What's inside the FlipBooKit. 

The development team (Marvel, Rosen, and Goldstein) turned to Kickstarter and cut a few corners to ensure early backer kits would arrive before their Christmas deadline. So it is very likely that only the first recipients will ever notice it. While the kits are complete, none were shipped with packaging to hold everything together.

Instead, the entire kit slipped right out of the shipping envelope. It included the die-cut notebook plastic encased cardboard box that folds together in about five steps. It included a spindle assembly, which has a hand crank. And it includes two sets of laminated flip cards, plus a set of stickers. 

The first set of flip cards sport the classic image of a running horse. The second set is blank, allowing anyone to either affix their series to the cards or draw/print images on precut stickers. (It pays to be careful in removing the contents as some cards will separate from their sheets.)  

It may seem slightly daunting as the contents fall out of the envelope, but the instructions make sense. All told, most people can assemble the box with the preprinted horse frames in about 28 steps. Making their own creations, however, requires considerably more thought. 

The creativity of motion media is limitless. 

Much like the artists discovered in creating their own work, one box with a 24-frame story can be interesting. However, stories that sprawl across more than one box are even more memorable. In looking at the work of Marvel and Rosen, many of their motion vignettes sprawl across three boxes — either in a horizontal row or with other spatial considerations. 

Ergo, a horse running in place is interesting, but a horse running from one box to the next can be all the more captivating. Or, as Marvel and Rosen's work have shown, a woman climbing up a ladder and diving into a tub or an elk walking across two boxes before transforming herself into a woman can be unforgettable. 

But then again, depending only on someone's imagination, anything might be unforgettable in the span of 24 linear or looping frames. We can see anything and everything from a series of stills to time lapse photography playing out in an endless loop. With enough foresight, someone could even capture themselves in the same position for 24 years and age themselves with the turn of a crank.

FlipBooKit Moves Art Toward Motion At 5.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

FlipBooKit is still in its infancy, with the next rounds likely to ignite something lasting more than the first round. In other words, the development team has a few kinks to clean up. The kits deserve better packaging and a spare spindle assembly. The upcoming motorized kits might require programmable timing (like the work on exhibit). And the materials used in making the box ought to include metal or wood, which many people are already expressing a willingness to pay more for. 

There is also plenty of room for preassembled boxes, where the artist is only responsible for adding content to spindle cards, which could be sold as cartridge kits. These might seem like small changes, but could eventually make all the difference — especially as others build upon the work of Marvel and Rosen to prove what's improbable can also be possible. 

Currently, FlipBooKits are only be sold direct through the bigcartel. They are modestly priced at $43 per kit. They are especially attractive to anyone who sees potential around the corner, artists and creatives that want to move into the kinetic arts medium rather than confining themselves to the digital space. Sometimes art needs high touch and low tech as opposed to the other way around. 
blog comments powered by Disqus