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Mechanical Wooden Frames Make Famous Japanese Paintings Turn Up

These portraits by Toshusai Sharaku can't stop dancing.
GIF and screencaps via

Toshusai Sharaku was a mysterious 17th century Japanese ukiyo-e artist who had a prolific career for 10 months before fading into obscurity after his portraits of famous kabuki actors was met with harsh criticism. Ugoita T., a fine purveyor of clever modern takes on classic Japanese art forms, has revisited Sharaku's work with a set of mechanical wooden frames called Rhythmic Pics that make their occupants dance. Parts of the woodblock prints have been imbued with movement via motors and wooden gears inside the frame. You get a glimpse of the innards in the demonstration video below.


Previously, the group created a troupe of dancing paper cranes controlled by magnets, and its new project is equally entertaining. It's so satisfying to watch the impassioned faces of long-dead actors shake it to the rhythmic bass of today's music that you almost forget about Sharaku's tragic fate.

It's unknown whether you can buy one of Ugoita T.'s picture frames, but check out their website for more information.


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