The Flipbook Machine is a sculpture that explores moving images by physical means, working with the form and structure of how animation is made. The animation itself is constructed from printed paper, multiple frames of stills shown in sequence to form a moving image. As the paper flutters, a natural soundtrack is scored to the picture.
The Flipbook Machine series began while artist J. C. Fontanive was in the Animation Masters Degree program at the Royal College of Art in 2004. At that time, he collected Victorian clocks from the street markets in East London, using the clock parts and other found objects to invent the machine that drives the animation. Designing the mechanism over time, as well as making animations of birds and other flying creatures, the animations and machines have informed each other's development – insect wings flickering like paper, and paper cards flapping at the rate of insect wings.
J. C. Fontanive was born and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and received his BA from Syracuse University, and an MA from The Royal College of Art, London. His work has been shown at The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, The Contemporary Art Society, London, The Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, Museum Meermanno Huis van het Boek, The Hague, The Gulbenkian Foundation, Monash University Museum of Art, The Oliver Ranch Foundation, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Tyler Museum of Art, The Nassau Museum of Art, Limerick City Gallery of Art, Ireland, The Center for Book Arts, among others. Fontanive won the 2018 Brooke and Hap Stein Emerging Artist Prize, MOCA Jacksonville and The Desmond Preston Drawing Prize, The Royal College of Art, and has been awarded residency at The Marble House Project, VT. Fontanive lives and works in New York, NY.
Installing the machine Movement 4 in The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville atrium, 2017.
Watch NPR's Science Friday feature about the Flipbook Machine:
"It was in my bedroom in Hackney, London in 2004 where I invented the flipbook machine. I was studying at the Royal College of Art and constructed the initial machines from bike and car parts, clock parts, and vinyl records drilled by hand with a cordless drill. Studying a master's degree in Animation, I combined the mechanisms with flipbooks I was making at the time. I remember sitting on my bed in that room when the idea came to me. It gave me chills. I think at that time I was so intensely motivated by the talented students at the RCA that I focused extremely hard to develop my work. To me animation has everything to do with invention, the wonder of the unknown, and possibility. So to be working in this new ground, and in a new environment, was very exciting to me. Coming to London from the Lower East Side of New York I took inspiration from the back and forth between those cities, as well as a simple 60s flip clock I found in a Cleveland thrift store for $1. The legacy of a little thing called the Industrial Revolution in London helped a bit too. When I showed the original prototype to my flatmates and fellow RCA students Barry Murphy and Mike Golembewksi, they said 'that's deadly!'. Being American I didn't know that expression per se, but I knew it was affirmative." - J. C. Fontanive
Early creations Askew and Mr Friendly, 2005.
Bedroom studio, London 2004:
Artist Website: www.jfontanive.com
Flipbook Machine featured on NPR's Science Friday August 2022
Listen to J.C. Fontanive in conversation on NPR with Ira Flatow, host and executive producer of Science Friday, to talk about the act of invention and how to create visceral work in a digital age.
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