The fourth wall falls down and we don’t need to quote any PhD thesis on the great beards of Bertolt Brecht or Ingmar Bergman; the partition wall falls down by itself when, often involuntarily, the moiré effect appears on the screen. Those strong patterns creating strange drawings tell us that what we are actually seeing on our monitors is NOT reality. How could it be? It hurts our eyes! It looks like it’s moving when it’s not! It’s anything but natural! Even if this optical effect is present too in the real world (in the iridescence of any silk fabric, for example), our perception only identifies it as an annoying visual interference when we see it on TV.
According to physics (sub-theme: optics), the explanation of this distortion effect produced by the overlaying of two or more weaves of similar and very close lines that create a new repetitive and unwanted pattern includes its solution (or instructions on how to avoid it): you only need to change or increase the angle from which you look at it to discover the real drawing, not the one created by the inaccuracy of your eyes. On TV, this antidote for the moiré poison is beyond our reach. Or it was: on new monitors with a minimal 1024 X 768 pixel resolution, waves disappear and the image stops wiggling thanks to this HD times we live in.
So the scary and involuntary arabesques produced by fabrics with grid patterns (hounds tooth, tweed, Vichy… in fact, some fabrics are directly called moiré) have become a trace of a not so remote past in which TV monitors had 625 lines and produced an audiovisual noise when a presenter or interviewee appeared with an outfit that challenged the advice of the costume department. And, thus, moiré, like any other pre-digital relic (even if it still happens, it does so much less frequently) can now be remembered and thought of with nostalgia.
Moiré, now sought-after and generated on purpose, is someone stepping on the aesthetic fuzz pedal. In some cases, its goals are purely parodic, like in this week’s GIF (a mockery of the peculiar blazers sported by singer and TV actor Iósif Kobzón, a sort of Russian Frank Sinatra). But, most of the time, this dizzy effect is an excuse to create better or worse optical illusions, more or less trippy, more or less interesting. However, I can’t help but finding much more moving those old TV moiré slaps on the face, since they brought about an involuntary op art dimension into our living rooms, off the cuff. Sympathy for the creaky.