Slow Dance

Slow Dance is a picture frame that makes real objects appear to move in slow motion. By taking advantage of the limits of human visual perception, this optical illusion sculpture appears to be doing the impossible — right before your eyes.


The very first version of this sculpture was a wedding gift for two friends that are both dancers. Two feathers dancing together felt like a perfect metaphor for their relationship.

As people saw it over time, I got the urge to make many, so anyone can have one in their home. And the Kickstarter was born.

Strobe lights are nothing new. From the photos of Eadweard Muybridge to the photos of Doc Edgerton, extremely fast strobe lights have been helping us to see into fast motions. On a dancefloor, strobe lights turn us into stop motion animations. But we’ve put strobe light to use in a different fashion.

By using high speed strobe lights blinking 80 times a second, your eyes cannot even see that they are blinking — the light looks continuous. By synchronizing the strobes to the high-speed vibration of objects (feathers, branches, flowers, etc), we create the visual illusion of those objects moving in slow motion. This is a phenomenon called persistence of vision, and works similarly to the way a TV works — by flickering frozen images quickly enough that we perceive them as continuous motion.


In fact, Slow Dance relies on a surprisingly simple, if imperceptible, trick. “Once you tell someone how it works, they can never un-know it,” Lieberman says. He’d rather you puzzle it out on your own, but if you’re really persistent, he’ll insist that you devote one solid minute to figuring it out.

This slow-motion machine is so stunning we almost don’t want to tell you how it works

Like many great illusions, knowing how Slow Dance works does little to dilute its impact. Looking at an object through Lieberman’s frame feels a bit like peering in on a hidden world. Suddenly you can see the bend of a feather’s barbs. Plants feel more alive because you can see them move. As for Lieberman, he hopes his creation will help people slow down themselves, if only for a split second. “As adults we get complacent about mystery,” he says. “This really engages someone in a state of wonder.”

Special thanks to:
Eric Gunther + Emily Beattie, Matt Kearney + Expert Digital Imaging, Jay Jodi Oak + Ocean Silver, Danielle Joseph + Rhett Applestone, Bill Alison Rowan + Mark Washabaugh, Marcelo Kyla + Elise Coehlo, Eric Rosenbaum, Kate Balug, Giles Hall, Jim Bales + The Edgerton Center, Evren Keri Oza-Harrow, Rex Maria + Carmela Martín Baker-Vidart, Jess Banks, Sandra Mullin, the Arduino project, Simon Morris + Daniel Mascarenhas, everyone at Industry Lab, Mike Zhao @ eTonnet, everyone @ Kickstarter, and everyone who dares to dream, to look freshly at the world around them, and to sit in awe and wonder at the reality in which we live.