GIFs Out of Balance

Earlier this week, I mentioned doing the sort of my biennial favorite films list. My favorite film for a few years back in the pre-Internet era (well, pre-Netscape Navigator for sticklers) was the experimental, non-narrative film Koyaanisqatsi.

Technically a documentary, I suppose, but really more of a visual essay. It uses a variety of slow-motion, time-lapse, and regular speed, but breathtaking, cinematography resulting in a film unlike anything I had seen before. It may also have been my first exposure to the music of Philip Glass, which is integral to the piece — and Philip Glass music alone is quite the discovery. I also benefited from seeing it on the big screen with an audience, where the collective experience also proved integral, especially at those few points where Glass’ mesmerizing score stops and you could hear a pin drop in the theater.

Its impact has been diminished with the omnipresence of visual media, including the ubiquity of slow-motion and time-lapse video. In fact, I recall a designer friend not being impressed by the film, possibly because of their ready access to stock footage libraries which included countless slo-mo and time-lapse video clips. In short, they felt they could create their own “Qatsi construction” with ease.

Well, thanks to the Internet, we have reached peak “Qatsi.” No, I’m not talking about Alvin and the Chipmunks singing the whole Koyannisqatsi soundtrack, though that’s awesome. I’m talking about the existence, alerted to me by friends and Boing Boing, of Gifaanisqatsi: an algorithmically generated set of GIFs set to Philip Glass’ iconic score. The version I saw included someone in an inflatable T-Rex costume pole dancing. And, of course, cats.

It is truly beautiful and terrible to behold.

I will leave it to you to decide how out of balance we all are.

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