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Gestures Through Time

As an artist interested in the moving image, I have a long-standing fascination with the magic lantern and its potential for presenting sequential imagery and handmade rudimentary animated movement. Commentators such as Lev Manovich see the characteristics of early optical devices, like the magic lantern, as predicative of digital cinema technology - which has heralded a return to hand manipulated, handmade moving imagery. Moreover, he asserts that many of the characteristics of these early devices have become embedded in creative digital software – citing for example the superimposition of imagery produced with magic lantern slides as parallel to using layers in Photoshop or compositing with digital editing software. Correspondingly, in my project I have used the layering tools in Photoshop and the compositing tools in Adobe Premiere (along with frame-by-frame pencil drawing) to create an animated sequence, drawing heavily on the aesthetic of the magic lantern.

I responded to a magic lantern slide of Paul Kruger (a Boer war leader and president of the South African Republic from 1893-1900). While this was an intuitive choice, the image of Kruger resonates with my interest in the genre of political portraiture and associated iconography of power. Focusing on the movement and composition of the hands only, using the slide of Kruger as a starting point, the animation moves in a roughly historical manner depicting hand gestures of successive South African heads of state - ending with the current president, Cyril Ramaphosa. My choice of each photograph was informed by the relative cognisance between each hand gesture in terms of creating believable movement. I was also aware that the psychology of the subject may potentially be evoked by the hand gesture.

The animation is composed after a magic lantern slide show, moving from photograph to photograph, each connected by rough animated sequences. The animated process is deliberately not hidden - and is characterised by overlapping traces of successive stages of movement. I have included a segment of a frame-by-frame sequence with just the drawn hand gestures, as I am intrigued by visual dynamics of the usually hidden animation process.

Hand sequence (segment).jpg
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