worlds within worlds dub

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The original images come from historic Islamic arabesques. They were carved in plaster and wood, painted, and mounted in actual buildings in Andalusia and Morocco. These ancient artworks were photographed, printed in a book, scanned into a computer, adjusted with Photoshop, and animated with After Effects. Each step in the journey has left its tell-tale mark, from the lighting of the original photograph to the mask of the printer to the blocky pixels of the digital zoom.

Our universe was born out of the singularity: small, hot, simple and symmetric. As it expanded it cooled. The symmetries broke one by one. Complexity and eventually life apppeared. With time, quarks, electrons and photons became atoms became molecules became cells became people and society. Each of these domains is a world of its own with its own style, organization, and beauty.

The animation mirrors this structure. Each segment starts with extreme zoom so you see only a small simple structure. But with time the camera pulls back and a larger and more complex design becomes visible. Eventually the design begins to repeat itself and we fade to the next world.

The first world starts with a more extreme zoom than the others, so extreme that individual pixels are visible as large rectangles on the screen. This represents the time only moments after the first singularity, the big bang.

The middle world is different from the others: after a brief period of zooming it begins to translate, or move sideways. What we thought was the center of the universe we realize is one of many centers. This represents the origin of consciousness, the self, and the other. Each star, or center, is just part of a larger crystaline structure. There are no explicit boundaries between stars. After encountering four such stars, a big star is encountered, and the camera pulls back to reveal all stars as part of a larger pattern. This is our current point in history, where the gaian mind gels from networked individuals.

The first two sections rotate clockwise. The middle section translates, it represents the turning point. The last two sections rotate counter-clockwise, unwinding the past.

The last world keeps zooming out until the pattern reduces to a featureless brown field as the scale heads to infinity and approaches the second singularity, the end of the universe. The colored grid of the first world fades in, and the cycle continues from where it started.

An interesting optical illusion can be induced by staring at the center of the spinnings image and relaxing. After a couple of minutes look away from the screen at a textured surface. An unmoving surface appears to crawl and flow in the opposite direction as the video.

This animation was made in response to 9/11/2001. It is not political though. It is merely a tribute to Islamic design.

The photos were scanned from the book Arabesques written by Jean-Marc Castéra and photographed by Françoise Peuriot and Philippe Ploquin, published by ACR in 1996.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License by spot at draves dot org.