Transfigurations: Reanimating the Past

Transfigurations: Reanimating the Past is an orchestrated set of animations that trace universal images and forms across time and cultures … from the Lower Paleolithic period through the Middle Ages, and from Mesoamerica to Europe, the Middle East and Indian Asia.

Transfigurations exhibitions are an ongoing series, presented at museums, gallery spaces and screenings. The Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art recently hosted exhibitions of Transfigurations animations from 2021 – 2023. Animations have previously been presented at REDCAT Theater at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, Paul Young Gallery in West Hollywood, the Riverside Art Museum, and the University of Texas at Austin.

In Transfigurations, viewers explore iconographic subjects that have been portrayed by artists since humans first made images on bone, stone and the walls of caves – representations of our bodies, of the visible world around us and of the invisible worlds of belief and cosmology.

The animations at the heart of Transfigurations are created from thousands of high-resolution images of art objects and architectural details photographed in museums, churches, temples and ancient sites. The photographs are animated using techniques ranging from slow, meditative morphing to rapid, almost hallucinatory cascades of coherent images. The evolving images allow children of the digital age a portal into art of the ancient past and provide insights even for those deeply familiar with the objects.

In addition to the animations, interactive displays encourage visitors to discover patterns, echoes and links between cultures and to explore: Who made these objects and why? Where do they come from? How were they found? Where are these objects now and how did they get there?

We have taken more than 40,000 photographs at over 300 locations so far, working in collaboration with museums and departments of antiquities in Canada, Cyprus, England, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Lebanon, Mexico, the U.S. and more. The completed project will incorporate images from 500 locations in over 30 countries.

Transfigurations will eventually grow to over 90 animations (35 are completed so far), gathering together tens of thousands of objects, impossible to assemble in any other way. It will include hours of animations on displays ranging from 4K screens to wall high projections. The sound is designed to evolve harmoniously as visitors create their own paths through the animation-filled spaces.

The animations are offered to venues free of exhibition fees. We hope to bring Transfigurations to museums and community spaces around the globe. We continue to seek collaboration with venues as well as support from foundations, individuals and equipment vendors. Please contact Producer Rosey Guthrie or Director David Lebrun for more information.

The Board of Advisors includes scholars, curators and museum directors:

Naman Ahuja – Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Adolph H. Borbein – Professor Emeritus, Freie Universitaet Berlin
Kerry Brougher – Founding Director, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Linda Duke – Former Director, Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art
Viola König – Former Director, Ethnology Museum of Berlin
Roberto Ontañón-Peredo – Director, Prehistory and Archaeology Museum of Santander
Nasser Rabbat – Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Architecture, MIT
Colin Renfrew – Senior Fellow, McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Univ. of Cambridge
Alexa Sekyra – Head of Scholars Program, Getty Research Institute
Margarete van Ess – Scientific Director, Orient Department, German Archaeological Institute

Michael D. Coe (1929 – 2019), Professor, Yale University, was a founding board member. His work will continue to inform and inspire this project.