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In a colossal carousel of horror, British artist Mat Collishaw and designer Sebastian Burdon reinterpreted the chaotic violence of Peter Paul Rubens’s 17th-century “Massacre of the Innocents” paintings as a 3D-printed zoetrope. The kinetic sculpture called “All Things Fall” was unveiled last October in Collishaw’s Black Mirror exhibition at Galleria Borghese in Rome, and recently Burdon shared the sculpture in action on Vimeo.
According to Burdon, it “took about six months of work and involved creating over 350 character figures, environment elements and architecture.” Burdon has collaborated with Collishaw on giant zoetropes before, such as “The Garden of Unearthly Delights” with 200 figures inspired by the creepy mayhem of Victorian fairy paintings, shown at MAD Museum in 2011. The zoetrope, also something of a Victorian fascination after their contemporary cylinder shape was designed in the 1830s by William George Horner, is basically a sequence of spinning images that appear animated when turned.
The precision of 3D printing for designing zoetropes has been inspiring projects like John Edmark’s sculptures that appear kinetic when spun or placed under a strobe light, and other artists have experimented with the unsettling effect of the jerky zoetrope, such as Gregory Barsamian‘s surreal synchronized sculptures. “All Things Fall” is exceptionally disturbing since Rubens based his two paintings on the biblical Massacre of the Innocents, where Herod orders the mass murder of babies when he heard news of the birth of a future king (outside of the Gospel of Matthew, this incident appears to have no historical truth).
In the Rubens, your eye flits from one grotesque scene to the next, babies flying this way and that. In the zoetrope, soldiers fight with mothers for their infants, and men toss babies out of windows in a loop. As a 3D printed sculpture, it lacks some of the finesse of the original Flemish Baroque, which was able to get by with the brutal chaos through beautiful brushwork. The zoetrope just reduces it to its violence over and over again, but it is creepily mesmerizing with its endless macabre turns.