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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
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
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
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.