Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 documentary Koyaanisqatsi is an oddity. It has no conventional narrative or central characters, instead relying on Philip Glass’ hypnotic score to bind together disparate images. Those (beautifully shot) images contrast the timelessness of nature with the urban modernity created by mankind. The film became a critical and commercial success, certainly when judged against the usual standards for non-narrative and documentary fare. Perhaps more importantly, the film’s distinct visual style – with its alternation of slow motion and time-lapse footage – became a staple of pop culture and proved as easy to spoof as it was to reference.
Video essay makers too have been inspired by Reggio’s movie. Its chaotic hyperkinesis was used as a counterpoint for Chantal Akerman’s News From Home. It was interpreted as a neoliberal manifesto.
The film’s unmistakeable visual style also became the topic for various video essays. In Koyaanistocksi, Jesse England recreates the film’s trailer using only stock footage procured from online image banks. The result is a powerful demonstration of just how much Reggio’s aesthetics were appropriated by other image makers and how they were copied for commercial reasons by outfits such as Getty and Shutterstock.
This particular project, GIFaanisqatsi, takes another and more irreverent approach. It also recreates the original film’s trailer, but does so by using animated GIFs that it harvested from Giphy. Each time you fire up the project’s website it will generate another version of the trailer, using a random collage of GIFs tagged as being either slow motion or time-lapse, and synching them to the trailer’s soundtrack. One example of such an automatically generated trailer is embedded above, but make sure to check the project’s site to make your own. This project by Rico Monkeon cheekily asks just how difficult (or easy…) it is to recreate Reggio’s lauded film. GIFaanisqatsi’s found footage obviously can’t match the original’s visual quality. But it does revive that movie’s critical spirit and applies it to another aspect of man-made modernity: our inexplicable propensity to document the silliness and banality of our lives.