Our foray into flipbook art started in 2009, when we traveled in Europe and the middle east; we fell in love with the mid-twentieth century mechanized signs that were still operating, especially the split-flap (or solari) departure/arrival boards in train stations, with their mesmerizing
Back in L.A., we fed our new mechanical obsession by taking field trips to old aerospace junk yards and rummaging through the obsolete equipment. Wendy was enchanted by the look of it all – corroded metals, gauges, dials and buttons – and the design of a long gone era. Mark, on the other hand was excited about the functional parts and the guts. Having grown exposed to the aerospace industry, he felt nostalgia for the old equipment. We also started interacting with a local hackerspace, and it soon became clear that tech art was a natural progression.
Our first goal – once we’d solved the issue of developing the technology – was to bring emotional depth to the flipbook medium. The early flipbook cards Wendy created were made by cutting up antique dresses and transferring imagery onto the fabric. If we were going to appropriate people’s photos from a certain era, it only seemed right to incorporate material from that age too. once we saw how people responded to our first piece, the craft really began to take a hold of us.
We don’t have our own children together, so we’ve begun calling “art” our child. It’s a pretty demanding kid we have, too, at the moment; always hungry, doesn’t let us sleep much and it is never satisfied. We don’t, however, know how long each stage of development will be. We might have just passed the “terrible twos” (tantrums and defiant behavior). right now, we’re enjoying a moment when our art is becoming more self-aware and beginning to develop a unique personality of its own.
The day when Mechanical Flipbook leaves the nest and becomes a productive part of society. We’ve already begun nurturing that hope with “FlipBooKit”, a DIY kit based on our original (old fashioned) art works. The kit enables anyone to build their own hand-cranked miniature movie machine. We’ve been moved and amazed to see what other people have made with this artistic technology.
The first flipbook appeared in Birmingham, England in 1868 when the British lithograph printer John Barnes Linnett patented his new invention under the name kineograph, literally “a moving picture”. Although the earlier phenakistoscope was able to produce a circular sequence of images, Linnett’s kineograph was the world’s first type of animation to use a linear sequence of images.
Almost thirty years later, Max Skladanowsky, the early German filmmaker and inventor, also prepared to unveil his own moving photographic images. He and his brother Emil had not yet developed their own film projector, and he exhibited his serial images as a flipbook in 1894. That same year, the American Herman Casler unveiled his new invention, the Mutoscope – a mechanized flipbook that, instead of binding the images as a flipbook, mounted them to a rotating cylinder.
It was Casler’s invention that truly captured the public’s imagination and his variation of the classic flipbook was a popular attraction well into the 20th century, often appearing in amusement parks and arcades. At the turn of the century, Henry William Short introduced the filoscope, a flipbook that included a small metal holder that made it much easier to flip the pages and see the images come to life.