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A series of animated illusions illustrates how we project depth on to flat surfaces

During his decades-long career, the celebrated Scottish-Canadian animator Norman McLaren (1914-87) experimented with a wide range of techniques. He was especially fascinated by stereoscopy, or the act of projecting a pair of two-dimensional images to create a three-dimensional illusion. The animation Around Is Around (1951), which McLaren created for the Festival of Britain, is a highlight of his stereoscopic work, exhibiting his keen interest in using the form to toy with perception. Originally screened at the Telekinema, a movie theatre on the South Bank in London that was specifically designed to exhibit 3D films, the short contains a mesmerising display of spinning arabesques and colourful celestial backdrops. Ever the innovator, McLaren created these effects by photographing the patterns of an oscilloscope. Although the full illusion cannot be seen here in this digital format, the experience remains a trippy peek into the nature of perception some 70 years later, artfully illustrating how our brains are quick to project depth on to flat surfaces.

Director: Norman McLaren

Website: National Film Board of Canada

2 August 2021

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