Jim Le Fevre’s Phonotrope

UK-based artist and animator Jim Le Fevre does some amazing work using turntables to animate images and objects. His phonotrope is very adaptable, able to animate both two-dimensional drawings and and three-dimensional items, like the Blue Tack he uses in one experiment, which reminded me of some of Art Clokey’s pre-Gumby work like Gumbasia. It looks like he also has a great set up for really interesting live performances and demonstrations. Although the videos on his site show the animation really well, he claims they look even better face to face. His post, available here, includes great background information and a really extensive overview of contemporary adaptations of zoetropes. With the exception of a couple of the artists, I knew about most of these projects, but it’s always exciting to see practitioners who are interested in this kind of resurgence or continued use of historic media technologies. Seeing this kind of work used in live programs like Friday Late Animate at the Victoria and Albert Museum also makes me think about the pedagogical applications of devices like the phonotrope. Sometimes it’s difficult to teach animation in terms of narrative–especially in classes that only have a few sessions, like after-school or weekend programs–because it takes so long to animate a story. Often, the principles of animation become obscured by trying to tell a story. Learning about narrative is a worthwhile goal, but it’s not the only worthwhile objective in such programs. Kids are taught to think in a linear way, in terms of strips and timelines. Using something like a phonotrope might encourage them to try to think more in terms of movement and revolutions, concentrating on a shorter series of images that doesn’t get overly complicated too quickly. It might produce higher quality animation. Plus, a round, flat spinning work surface seems pretty fun to work with.

Jim Le Fevre’s Phonotrope

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