ART BLANCHE: Merriweather Post Pavilion 

There’s about nothing more fitting for an Animal Collective album cover than an optical illusion — it’s a seemingly perfect complement to their very unique style of music. So when it was announced that the cover for Merriweather Post Pavilion was an optical illusion, well… it just made sense. The thing that makes less sense is actually looking at the cover. The leaves are all moving, but I’m pretty sure it’s a still image. It’s a headache-and-a-half.  

So that begs us to ask the questions: what exactly am I looking at, and why does it make my brain hurt?

First, some background: optical illusions play on the sensory skills of our eyes and the way in which they process and perceive light, color, shape, movement, etc. One of the pioneers in the development and study of optical illusions is Japanese psychologist and professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka. Aside from designing one of the most famous optical illusions, the “rotating snakes,” Kitaoka is also responsible for the illusion on the cover of Merriweather Post Pavilion.  

Now, to the science-y part: breaking down the cover of MPP. 

The illusion on the cover of MPP is called an “anomalous motion illusion” which is a fancy term that means “part of the image moves in a different direction from the rest of it.”

When looking at this cover there’s two apparent layers to the image: the green, moving leaves in the foreground, and the spacey, blue-pinkish image that is the background. What you may or may not have been able to guess is that the background actually has (mostly) no effect on the illusion at all. In fact, you can completely replace the background and the illusion still works. Take a look at my quick (and sloppy) photoshop that proves this exact point. Yes that’s Nick Cage.

On top of this, the leaves’ green color also has no effect on the illusion at all. (Well, mostly… I’ll get to that in a sec.) Here, I’ve changed the leaves to purple (because it’s my favorite color) and replaced that photo of Nick Cage with a different Nick Cage photo (because I can), and guess what — that headache-inducing movement is still going strong.

By now, if you’re a fan of process of elimination you may have figured out the magic behind this illusion: those black and white outlines around each leaf. They create what is called “conflicting luminosity” which is an effect that triggers the neurons in your brain into thinking they’re seeing motion when, in fact, they aren’t. In conjunction with this, the leaves are also laid out in a very specific pattern that helps further stimulate these neurons. Research has shown that repetition helps trigger the motion-sensing parts of the brain, and you can see the pattern of movement from MPP in this diagram below from the fantastic idsgn blog (who did their own post on this cover that I highly recommended checking out).

Now remember how I said the color of the leaves and the background mostly doesn’t matter? Well, that’s because of the whole conflicting luminosity thing. Think about it - for the full conflict effect, you need both colors to be present so they can conflict with each other. So, if you were to replace the background or the leaves with one of those two colors, it basically nullifies its effect because that color becomes overwhelming in the sense of creating conflict. 

Lets take a look at an example of this in that second Nick Cage photo real quick. In it, there are certain spots where the black lines in the background intersect with the leaves and you lose a bit of the intensity of the illusion in those spots. So, in the case of Merriweather Post Pavilion, the green leaves and the spacey background don’t really help make the illusion work, they just don’t make it not work. Ya dig?

That’s all I got for this week, but before I go, I just want to say I know that was long - thanks for reading!

Also, sorry for all the headaches.

-Dylan Singleton

P.S. If you have any ideas for my column, tell me! artblanche930@gmail.com

Alice Cooper & Marilyn Manson (@ Merriweather): Oh Lord, time to break out the eyeliner. Legendary shock rock idols Cooper and Manson are teaming up for what’s sure to be a massive spectacle. And with support from satirical heavy metal band GWAR, make sure you wear clothes you don’t mind getting sprayed with (fake) blood! 
O.A.R. (@ Merriweather): After a hugely sold-out extended stay at 9:30 Club last year, DMV-born-and-bred rock band O.A.R. is playing Merriweather! We can’t think of anything that screams summer more than rocking out to these guys (with support from Andrew McMahon and Allen Stone) on the lawn on August 1! Grab your tickets before they’re gone!
Goo Goo Dolls (@ Pimlico): These prolific rockers play the Pimlico the night before the Preakness. Grab a Black-Eyed Susan and pre-game the big weekend festivities! 
Living Colour (@ 9:30): These funk-metal pioneers are headed to 9:30 mid-April! Influenced by free jazz, funk, hip hop, heavy metal, and hard rock, these guys have a little something for everybody, so grab your ticket before they’re sold out!
U Street Music Hall presents Flying Lotus (@ 9:30): Electronic producer Flying Lotus had a wildly successful 2012 with the release of his fourth studio album Until the Quiet Comes (it debuted at 34 on Billboard’s Top 200 and sold 13,000 copies in its first week!). Anyway, grab your ticket and bring your dancing shoes!
Tedeschi Trucks Band (@ 9:30): This soulful group led by a husband-and-wife duo comes to 9:30 in May! Winning a Grammy for Best Blues Album in 2011 with their debut Revelator, these guys (& gals!) know blues. It’s sure to be a mellow evening, so make sure you don’t miss out! Tickets are $49.50.
Futurebirds (@ 9:30): This country-rock inspired indie band from Athens, Georgia is known for their high-energy shows. They have also shared the stage with Drive-By Truckers and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (two 9:30 faves!). In conclusion…you don’t want to miss this!
Animal Collective (@ 9:30): Wildly successful Animal Collective is FINALLY returning to the club after several seasons at Merriweather. The first night sold out almost instantly, but because we love you guys we added a second night! Get ‘em quick!
Ariel Pink (@ UHall): Lo-fi pop artist Ariel Pink comes to U St. Music Hall in mid-June. Heavily influenced by bands like Bauhaus and the Cure, his set should be extremely intriguing. Tickets are $20.
Chopteeth (@ UHall): Local afro-funk big band Chopteeth is headed to U Street, bringing their own blend of big sound and international flavor. You might not know what they’re saying (they’re known to sing in eight languages), but who cares!? Just dance!

Alice Cooper & Marilyn Manson (@ Merriweather): Oh Lord, time to break out the eyeliner. Legendary shock rock idols Cooper and Manson are teaming up for what’s sure to be a massive spectacle. And with support from satirical heavy metal band GWAR, make sure you wear clothes you don’t mind getting sprayed with (fake) blood! 

O.A.R. (@ Merriweather): After a hugely sold-out extended stay at 9:30 Club last year, DMV-born-and-bred rock band O.A.R. is playing Merriweather! We can’t think of anything that screams summer more than rocking out to these guys (with support from Andrew McMahon and Allen Stone) on the lawn on August 1! Grab your tickets before they’re gone!

Goo Goo Dolls (@ Pimlico): These prolific rockers play the Pimlico the night before the Preakness. Grab a Black-Eyed Susan and pre-game the big weekend festivities! 

Living Colour (@ 9:30): These funk-metal pioneers are headed to 9:30 mid-April! Influenced by free jazz, funk, hip hop, heavy metal, and hard rock, these guys have a little something for everybody, so grab your ticket before they’re sold out!

U Street Music Hall presents Flying Lotus (@ 9:30): Electronic producer Flying Lotus had a wildly successful 2012 with the release of his fourth studio album Until the Quiet Comes (it debuted at 34 on Billboard’s Top 200 and sold 13,000 copies in its first week!). Anyway, grab your ticket and bring your dancing shoes!

Tedeschi Trucks Band (@ 9:30): This soulful group led by a husband-and-wife duo comes to 9:30 in May! Winning a Grammy for Best Blues Album in 2011 with their debut Revelator, these guys (& gals!) know blues. It’s sure to be a mellow evening, so make sure you don’t miss out! Tickets are $49.50.

Futurebirds (@ 9:30): This country-rock inspired indie band from Athens, Georgia is known for their high-energy shows. They have also shared the stage with Drive-By Truckers and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (two 9:30 faves!). In conclusion…you don’t want to miss this!

Animal Collective (@ 9:30): Wildly successful Animal Collective is FINALLY returning to the club after several seasons at Merriweather. The first night sold out almost instantly, but because we love you guys we added a second night! Get ‘em quick!

Ariel Pink (@ UHall): Lo-fi pop artist Ariel Pink comes to U St. Music Hall in mid-June. Heavily influenced by bands like Bauhaus and the Cure, his set should be extremely intriguing. Tickets are $20.

Chopteeth (@ UHall): Local afro-funk big band Chopteeth is headed to U Street, bringing their own blend of big sound and international flavor. You might not know what they’re saying (they’re known to sing in eight languages), but who cares!? Just dance!

Morrissey  (@ The National Theatre) oh he’s back. After a completely stunning set at Strathmore, we are lucky enough to host Moz once again! Even better? It will be The National Theatre’s FIRST ever rock show in it’s 175 year history. If this wasn’t already a show to check off your bucket list, think again.
The Postal Service (@ Merriweather) the 10 year anniversary of the hugely successful and stunning, Give Up, The Postal Service are back and bringing along the lovely Jenny Lewis with them! Prepare to fall in love all over again on the 10th anniversary of an album that, let’s be real, was pretty important to a lot of us.
Kegs & Eggs 14 The yearly tradition from Elliot In The Morning that truly proves it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere. Hear sets from some of the station’s favorite bands (Dropkick Murphys, Carbon Leaf to name a few), and kick off your St. Patty’s day festivities!
The Dan Band The band that caused literally everyone you know to fall back in love with the dramatic magic that is “Total Eclipse of The Heart” and a genuinely hilarious (and sensual) performance every year. Can you take all the heat?
Robyn Hitchcock and The Venus 3 an album due out in March from Yep Roc, solid as hell band, support from Peter Buck. Seriously, what more do you want from us? Set that damn alarm and get your ticket!
Tomahawk boasting members from Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, The Jesus Lizard and Helmet (DANG! Right?), this band has always been on the cutting edge of experimental hard-hitting rock music. Come see why they are a force to be reckoned with live!
Animal Collective we have graciously lent the magic and wonder of AC live to Merriweather for the past couple seasons, but baby, now they are back in our loving arms. Trippy visuals and sets, fun beats, plenty of dancing. We are already counting down.
Turquoise Jeep  (@ U Street Music Hall) for rhymes as catchy as they are hilarious, the comedic hip-hop group make their triumphant return to U Street Music Hall will certainly be a party you want to get in on.
Youngblood Hawke (@ U Street Music Hall) many of you left our sold out Passion Pit shows as new fans of this band, which is no surprise at all. Their upbeat anthemic indie pop certainly made us instant addicts, and we personally can’t wait to host their headlining gig at U Street Music Hall. Come see what all the fuss is about (SPOILER: it’s about a lot of great, fun music).

Morrissey  (@ The National Theatre) oh he’s back. After a completely stunning set at Strathmore, we are lucky enough to host Moz once again! Even better? It will be The National Theatre’s FIRST ever rock show in it’s 175 year history. If this wasn’t already a show to check off your bucket list, think again.

The Postal Service (@ Merriweather) the 10 year anniversary of the hugely successful and stunning, Give Up, The Postal Service are back and bringing along the lovely Jenny Lewis with them! Prepare to fall in love all over again on the 10th anniversary of an album that, let’s be real, was pretty important to a lot of us.

Kegs & Eggs 14 The yearly tradition from Elliot In The Morning that truly proves it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere. Hear sets from some of the station’s favorite bands (Dropkick Murphys, Carbon Leaf to name a few), and kick off your St. Patty’s day festivities!

The Dan Band The band that caused literally everyone you know to fall back in love with the dramatic magic that is “Total Eclipse of The Heart” and a genuinely hilarious (and sensual) performance every year. Can you take all the heat?

Robyn Hitchcock and The Venus 3 an album due out in March from Yep Roc, solid as hell band, support from Peter Buck. Seriously, what more do you want from us? Set that damn alarm and get your ticket!

Tomahawk boasting members from Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, The Jesus Lizard and Helmet (DANG! Right?), this band has always been on the cutting edge of experimental hard-hitting rock music. Come see why they are a force to be reckoned with live!

Animal Collective we have graciously lent the magic and wonder of AC live to Merriweather for the past couple seasons, but baby, now they are back in our loving arms. Trippy visuals and sets, fun beats, plenty of dancing. We are already counting down.

Turquoise Jeep  (@ U Street Music Hall) for rhymes as catchy as they are hilarious, the comedic hip-hop group make their triumphant return to U Street Music Hall will certainly be a party you want to get in on.

Youngblood Hawke (@ U Street Music Hall) many of you left our sold out Passion Pit shows as new fans of this band, which is no surprise at all. Their upbeat anthemic indie pop certainly made us instant addicts, and we personally can’t wait to host their headlining gig at U Street Music Hall. Come see what all the fuss is about (SPOILER: it’s about a lot of great, fun music).

VOTD: Animal Collective – ‘Today’s Supernatural’ because we are simultaneously intrigued and creeped out. We can’t decide whether we want to run away from the creature in this video, or give him a big ol’ hug. Either way, the crazy camera movements and funky video effects totally vibe with the song, and we can’t stop hitting replay. We’re totally hoping this creature makes an appearance at Animal Collective’s show at Merriweather on October 2nd!