The animated GIF is the Hallmark card of the internet–distributed on a whim to verbalize some emotion, only to be tossed aside after a brief laugh. It’s the most disposable and reproducible of medias, so making the GIF a fine, handmade piece of art seems borderline impossible.
But the Giphoscope does just that. Created by Marco Calabrese and Alessandro Scali of OKKULT Motion Pictures, this crankable sculpture displays an animated GIF, frame by frame, much like an old mutoscope. The machine is made from materials such as Italian walnut and aluminum and each one is a bespoke creation: You send in the animated GIF of your choice, they’ll check for frame rate compatibility, and then select wood finishes to complement the color and content of your GIF.
“There’s something magic when you move the crank and you create an animation with your hands, starting from static pictures,” Scali tells Co.Design. “People are surprised when they discover that a movie works in that way. The Giphoscope it’s an antiquate technology that is able to excite our generation of digital geeks/lovers/natives.”
Indeed, animation through persistence of vision is an entirely old idea–showing the human eye a progression of slightly different frames creates the illusion of movement in film, GIFs, and even on our computer screens–but few of us in the digital age appreciate that miraculous phenomenon. As a $400 lasercat GIF gussied up in a nice wrapper, the Giphoscope is a hokey joke product. But as an interactive sculpture that reminds us of the simple miracle powering moving pictures as we know them? It’s brilliant.