Eadweard Muybridge: Symposium

Following a London press launch on 21st May for the new Eadweard Muybridge: Defining Modernities, web portal a symposium took place in NFT2, which I was able to attend. Report below (with text adapted from the Press Release).

The web portal is the result of a 6 month AHRC knowledge transfer project undertaken by Alex Reynolds and led by co-partners Fran Lloyd and Peta Cook as part of the larger ‘Muybridge in Kingston’ research project initiated by David Falkner, Stanley Picker Gallery, and Peta Cook, Curator of Kingston Museum.

Eadweard Muybridge: Re-Presenting History in the Digital Age.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Hosted by the British Film Institute, Southbank
21st May 2010, NFT2 2.00 – 5.30pm.

Critically reflecting on some of the key questions to arise from a recent AHRC funded project surrounding Eadweard Muybridge.

A section of the world map indicating Muybridge-related collections, from the Kingston University / Kingston Museum website Eadweard Muybridge: Defining Modernities

2.00pm – 2.30pm: Introduction by Project Leaders. New portal demonstrated.

2.30pm – 3.00pm: ‘“More or Less Graceful”: Looking back at Muybridge’s Bodies’

Dr Harriet Riches Senior Lecturer in Art History and Visual Culture at Kingston University, London. Dr Riches considered the legacy of Muybridge’s studies of the human figure and discussed how this might continue to inform our understanding of the representation of the body, gender and the photographic gaze in contemporary art and visual culture.

Ranging widely but focusing in particular on one image from Animal Locomotion, ‘Turning around in surprise and running away’ (also labelled my Muybridge as “Ashamed”), from Animal Locomotion, this talk explained the art history precedent for that particular pose.

3.00pm – 3.30pm: ‘Eadweard Muybridge and the Production of Mobilities’

Prof. Tim Cresswell Professor of Human Geography and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London. Professor Cresswell placed the photographic enterprises of Muybridge in the context of the production of mobilities in late 19th Century United States; exploring how his images attempted to portray an abstract and disembodied notion of movement whilst being connected to and reproducing particular emergent narratives of mobility at the time. The talk discussed Muybridge’s endeavours within a general account of the role of mobility in social and cultural life.

I was especially interested in several subjects touched on briefly by Professor Cresswell, such as the current use of ‘gait recognition’ by airport security – unusual movement being a telltale sign that someone is up to no good, prompting the joke that the British Government may perhaps need a Ministry of Funny Walks; and the tracking of objects in motion by RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags, so ubiquitous on products from library books to self-checkout shop goods.

4.00pm – 4.30pm: ‘Digital Programming at the Victoria and Albert Museum’

Louise Shannon Curator, Deputy Head of Contemporary Programmes Victoria and Albert Museum and co-curator of ‘Decode’. This talk offered an introduction to digitisation in current curatorial and artistic practice by discussing the role of digital art and design within Contemporary Programmes at the Victoria and Albert Museum; particular points of discussion being drawn from the recent exhibition ‘Decode’.

The speaker explained some of the problems of archiving and future re-display of digital and high-tech artworks that had little or no physical presence, or those in which the artist’s intended effect requires considerable effort to set up. It strikes me that this is directly relevant to several categories of Muybridge’s works – his lantern slides are rarely shown in their intended projected form and are never shown as part of their original presentation flow with his spoken commentary – and similarly the Zoopraxiscope discs are presented as antique glass objects of beauty, but we don’t see the images carefully framed and in motion on a 10ft (or bigger) screen as Muybridge’s audiences did. Current Muybridge “moving images” are animations of an entirely different nature, of photographs that Muybridge didn’t animate.

4.30pm – 5.30pm: Panel Discussion, with selected questions from the audience. Chaired by Professor Fran Lloyd, Associate Dean of Research at the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, Kingston University.

A range of intelligent questions from the audience concluded the symposium, but there was still a lot to discuss during the post-event reception.

The current Kingston Museum / Kingston University blend of archive/collections experience and academic/theoretical input is evidently working very well across the wide range of joint activities and projects emanating from Muybridge’s home town.

Following the Press event, the BBC posted a web page on Muybridge: Eadweard Muybridge: Kingston reclaims photo revolutionary

from the BBC web page


Posted here by Stephen Herbert
(Visiting Research Fellow, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, Kingston University, London.)