New Criticals

I kept looking what appeared to be a simple and logical animation, its concept based on mimicking the physics of a real spinning object. But there are some counterintuitive moments in the movement of the file, moments in which the story of the .gif’s creation reveals itself. Most noticably, it rotates towards the viewer, from right to left, opposite the direction in which it is read. This creates a kind of tension between the movement of the animation and the viewer's focal points. Imparting a meaningless sense of urgency, it challenges you to read quickly against the current of its motion, before it spins away.

I eventually realized something less apparent, which is that the behavior of the animation itself is a visual illusion. This is evident when the rotation comes around from the left to the right, and the image is about to turn the corner and continue its revolution. You expect to see the reverse side, but at the moment it turns its back, a brief but perceptible cut flips it back around, so the viewer never does see the reverse side. To see what was really going on, I downloaded the file so I could look at all the frames. When the image is about to turn the corner, it actually just starts over. This creates the appearance of a complete revolution, even though what the viewer is really seeing is more of an oscillation along a semi-circle. 

The animation is similar to the barberpole effect. Stare at one long enough and you'll notice something amiss. The secret is that although the pole is rotating horizontally, in a circle, it appears that the red and white stripes are moving vertically. Similarly, the animated text .gif employs this rather simple dissimulation to hide the truth of its actual movement, which is based more on repetition than fullness of motion.