Gandiva Ray Cast


4K, silent animation commissioned by Elizaveta Schneyderman for the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College

‘Gandiva Ray Cast’ is a retelling of a scene from the Sanskrit epic The Mahabharata and a meditation on light transport methodologies in image rendering. The animation depicts the moment Arjuna rains arrows from his celestial bow Gandiva onto Bhishma, his childhood mentor and one of the greatest warriors of the time. Arrows flown from Arjuna’s divine bow multiply in the air and pierce every inch of Bhishma's body, leaving him immobilized and held aloft on a bed of arrows.

This animation likens the divine force of thousands of arrows connecting with their mark to the principles of ray-trace rendering, a discipline of computer graphics that attempts to model light’s movement through a scene. In ray-tracing, each pixel of an image is the sum calculation of a ray shot from the camera into the scene. To render a standard HD image, 2,073,600 (1920 columns of pixels, each 1080 tall) rays must be shot onto all visible surfaces. Ray tracing engines, in the sense that they obliterate their subjects with rays of light, can be seen as divine weapons like Arjuna’s bow Gandiva.