Katy Beveridge’s stunning bicycle wheel animation is making the internet rounds this week. Beveridge is a student working on a project related to early animation, and her video documentation of the bicycle wheel zoetrope in action is pretty amazing. It’s perhaps more accurate to call the piece a phenakistoscope, as it’s essentially a rotating disc rather than a band of images, but it’s interesting that the zoetrope, as one of the more popular and recognizable optical devices from the nineteenth century, often becomes a central reference point for contemporary artists. I really like the gear motifs Beveridge chose to use. It apparently took a lot of trials to accurately match the camera’s frame rate to the rotation of the wheel (I suspect that since the wheel was rotating at an inconsistent rate, some work in post may have been done). What’s really interesting is how a lot of posts about the piece (like this one) suggest that the animation is only visible through a camera. That’s not entirely true. While the animation can’t be seen with the unaided eye, it would most certainly work with the addition of a slotted disc (like the original phenakistoscope). Perhaps the fact that the camera is considered the best mediating mechanism to render the movements visible (versus, say, a slotted disc or strobe light) suggests that the emphasis for these kinds of works might not be their liveness or the performativity, but their ability to be recorded, captured, and circulated online.
Here’s the boingboing post about the animation.
For more bicycle-related animations, read all about Tim Wheatley’s wonderfully-recorded cyclotrope.