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Tobias Gremmler, clip from “Kung Fu Motion Visualization” (2016) (GIFs by the author for Hyperallergic)

From 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge to Italian Futurist sculptor Umberto Boccioni, artists throughout history have attempted to capture the complexities of athletic human motion in their work. In “Kung Fu Motion Visualization,” Munich-born, Hong Kong-based designer Tobias Gremmler gives the artistic motion study a 21st-century update. Using live Kung Fu masters as models, Gremmler translated an ancient Chinese martial art into a mesmerizing visualization.

The short film was commissioned by the International Guoshu Association as part of a Kung Fu festival in Hong Kong, intended to preserve the legacy of martial arts.

Kung Fu Master Wong Yiu Kau and Master Li Shek Lin served as artist models. They swiveled, lunged, and brandished tridents while Gremmler recorded their movements. It took Gremmler about 10 days to transform the motion data into abstracted graphics, using the animation program Cinema 4D. It’s beautifully done, with silver, slinky-like motion trails. In some clips, the subjects look like choreographed swarms of bees. In others, they look like animated versions of Umberto Boccioni’s Futurist sculptures, such as “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space,” which was inspired by the motions of a football player mid-pass. By depicting their lightning-fast blocks and charges as slow-motion animations, Gremmler makes hard-to-see movements visible, casting an ancient martial art in new light.

Tobias Gremmler, clip from “Kung Fu Motion Visualization” (2016)

Tobias Gremmler, clip from “Kung Fu Motion Visualization” (2016)

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Carey Dunne

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering arts and culture. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Baffler, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.