“Tradition Offers Artistic Possibilities for New Media Technologies: An Animation System for Shadow Theatre” presented by Gudukbay, Erol and Erdogan


Session Title:

  • Movement, Sound and Gesture

Presentation Title:

  • Tradition Offers Artistic Possibilities for New Media Technologies: An Animation System for Shadow Theatre



  • We describe an animation system for Karagöz, which is a shadow theater. It is one of the most important traditional arts of Turkish culture. The animation system uses hierarchical modeling to animate two dimensional characters, like Karagöz and Hacivat. Hierarchical modelling animates the characters by using model parameters related to the different parts of the body and the joint parameters between these body parts. The system uses texture mapping to realistically render these characters since the body parts are modeled as two-dimensional polygon meshes. The animation system functions as an authoring tool creating keyframe animations, by editing the character parameters such as position and orientation for different keyframes. These animations can then be played back by reading the animation parameters from disk and interpolating between the keyframes.

    The first performances of Karagöz (Karagheus), the traditional Turkish Shadow Theatre, date back to the 16th century. It was one of the most popular forms of entertainment right up until the cinema replaced it in the late 1950s. The opening of each play references a Sufi leader, Mehemmed Küşteri, as the patron saint of Karagöz. Legend has it that Karagöz and Hacivat were two masons working on the construction of a mosque in Bursa, then the capital of the Ottoman State. They were an odd couple, whose unending conversations were so entertaining that the other workers often stopped work to listen to them. When the Sultan learned why the mosque could not be completed in due time, he ordered that they be hanged, an order which he later regretted deeply. Seeing the Sultan in distress, one of his advisers, Küşteri, designed an apparatus which he thought might console him. He stretched a translucent screen (perde) across two poles and then placed a light source behind it. He cut out two figures which resembled Karagöz and Hacivat and manipulated them behind the screen. We do not know if this really worked for the Sultan, but the story reveals another example of how art functions as a substitute for loss, an experience that is fundamental to the human psyche.

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