More new art across the media

In part due to the huge exposure that Muybridge and his work has had this past year, new artworks continue to proliferate across the media – dance, photography, painting, music, theatre, video – on YouTube, blogs, exhibitions ….. some derivative, some innovative. I like these two pieces. The first is a collage by Carolyn Brady and appears on Flickr. (To see Carolyn’s work on Flickr, search “vintagepix”).

(c) Carolyn Brady

And this ‘book’ on YouTube, by “msbrittknees” is great fun…….

And I don’t know whether it’s supposed to be, but the BBC’s “The Weird World of Eadweard Muybridge” is on YouTube too.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Weird Adventures airs on BBC tv

Andy Serkis. Photo (c) BBC

Apart from re-enactments in a 1960s US programme introduced by Ronald Reagan, Eadweard Muybridge as a character of considerable importance in the story of the creation and recording of the modern world has been absent from television. The Weird Adventures of Eadweard Muybridge is the first programme to attempt to tell the full story. It does touch on most aspects, leaving out the bits with very little visual material – the five years spent as a bookseller in New York, totally avoided in the commentary – and his various activities during the five ‘lost years’ back in Europe in the 60s. But for a one-hour programme, it packs a lot in.

Philip Brookman talks with Alan Yentob. Photo (c) BBC

The talking heads include Philip Brookman, whose exhibition in Washington did so much to introduce Muybridge to a wider public; author Rebecca Solnit, in splendid hat, musing on Muybridge in San Francisco as she wanders through the harbour; print collector Michael Wilson marvelling at the artistry of the travel photographs; Jonathan Miller not getting it at all, and insisting that Muybridge was simply an entertainer; recent biographer and long-time chronophotography specialist Marta Braun talking about the Animal Locomotion sequences; art curator Ann Dumas of the Royal Academy of Arts explaining the connection with the ballet dancers of Degas; and Kingston Museum curator Peta Cook introducing the sacred scrapbook, and zoopraxiscope discs.

A nice touch was Stanford Red Barn (Palo Alto) horse trainer Rachel Williamson confirming that the 1870s horse photos are still used today in the equestrian world.

Rachel Williamson. Photo (c) BBC

I got my fair share of the running time, mostly talking about the complexities of the image projections at a Muybridge lecture, and I also managed to get the last word in. [voice from across the room – “you always do…”]

‘Andy Serkis as Muybridge’ said the blurb, and he appeared reading Muybridge’s own words, wearing just a hint of period costume, but no stick-on beard. Serkis was also one of the expert talking heads, since he’s very familiar with the subject, having been developing a Muybridge feature film project for some years. And of course, he’s best known for being Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy – his physical image altered by CG techniques, in a modern development of the motion capture and image manipulation used by Muybridge for converting his photo sequences to painted animations.

No recent news on the feature movie, but perhaps it will happen someday.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

The Weird Adventures of Eadweard Muybridge

Coming soon to BBC1 (UK): The Weird Adventures of Eadweard Muybridge – an episode of the Imagine… series. Your dedicated blogger will possibly appear in this, fluffing and spluttering his way through answers to a question or two. My interview took place in the lecture theatre of the Royal Institution, where Muybridge lectured in the 1880s – and not improved by the seating having recently been upholstered in an unforgivable shade of cerise.

Tuesday, 22:35 on BBC One (except Northern Ireland, Wales)

“Pioneer photographer, forefather of cinema, showman, murderer – Eadweard Muybridge was a Victorian enigma. He was born and died in Kingston upon Thames, but did his most famous work in California – freezing time and starting it up again, so that for the first time people could see how a racing horse’s legs moved. He went on to animate the movements of naked ladies, wrestlers, athletes, elephants, cockatoos and his own naked body, projecting his images publicly with a machine he invented and astounding audiences worldwide with the first flickerings of cinema. Alan Yentob follows in Muybridge’s footsteps as he makes – and often changes – his name, and sets off to kill his young wife’s lover. With Andy Serkis as Muybridge.”

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Too much Muybridge!

Too busy to blog properly. So just a quick roundup of events over the past few days…….

Monday – following some successful research that’s detailed in my previous post – to the Tate opening with Mo, and it’s full of wonderful things … of course. But I spend most of the time talking with nice people, including Philip Brookman, who was responsible for the original Washington show, and the marvellous catalogue, and Ian Warrell, Curator of 18th and 19th century British Art. Good to see a solid turnout from Kingston, Muybridge’s home town.

Tuesday, I write my talk, “Eadweard Muybridge – Father of the Motion Picture?” –  for the opening of Kingston Museum’s exhibition Muybridge Revolutions, which will be on the 18th of this month. Lots of pictures to find and arrange.

Wednesday, I’m at the Royal Institution – where our man lectured on several occasions – for a filmed interview with Alan Yentob, for a Muybridge edition of the BBC1 Imagine programme. It’s a two-shot so questions need to be answered quickly, which doesn’t allow any time for thinking, and I fluff and splutter my way through. Later, I get an email from the editor of the Magic Lantern Society Newsletter, asking if I’d write a review of the Tate show.

Today (Thursday), I’m trying to gather together the best reviews of the Tate show, for this blog. They’ll be listed soon. And – a friend who’s a member of the Royal Academy drops by with a copy of Poetry in Motion, an article by Simon Wilson in RA Magazine, Autumn 2010.

Plus … I’ve been asked to give a talk at the Tate Britain, as part of an evening of Muybridge-related events. Something about the Zoopraxiscope, maybe. Late at Tate: Muybridge. Friday 1 October 2010 . “Late at Tate Britain draws inspiration from pioneering Anglo-American photographer Eadweard Muybridge presenting an evening of specialist talks, early film, music and interactive experiments exploring colour, light, space and movement.”

Too much Muybridge for (less than) one week, even for me!

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Unsupported Transit (and other new videos)

Thanks in part to a contest arranged by NPR (National Public Radio) in the USA, lots more Muybridge-related videos are appearing on YouTube.  The first shown here displays a most ingenious and successful light sculpture.

Unsupported Transit aka Ghost Horse
This sculpture by Michael Brown uses small mirrors with a reverse cutout of Eadweard Muybridge’s galloping horse images. Light Emitting Diodes aimed at each mirror are quickly flashed, reflecting the image of the horse onto the frosted glass face of the Bell Jar. Illuminating the horses in the correct and reflecting the images in the same place on the jar reanimates Muybridges galloping horses. For more information visit
2004 LEDs, electronics, mirrors, vinyl, bell jar (55 x 18 x 18)

Muybridge Chess Set
Muybridge Chess Set doesn’t do much, but as an idea and graphic design it’s both amusing and accomplished.

Time Hop
Kitch and ‘cute’.

Over the Gate
A Magic Angle sculpture using a complex solid form to create shadow pictures – ingenious.

Still Beating
“The heart of animation still beats, from Muybridge to our present day.” A reflection on Muybridge and the nature of time, and very well crafted.

Frames – Muybridge  Horse Moving Through Frames. A Muybridge galloping horse completes a nostalgic still life set piece.

There are many, many more.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

The Man Who Made Pictures Move: podcast and competition

Walking, two models meeting, and partly turning. Corcoran Gallery of Art

Muybridge: The Man Who Made Pictures Move
by Neda Ulaby

A link from this review of Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change will take you to the NPR radio’s 6-minute introduction to Muybridge.

From the same page, you can enter this:

NPR-Corcoran Contest
Following In Muybridge’s Footsteps
Concept: Create an Eadweard Muybridge-inspired piece. NPR will select three submissions to feature on the Picture Show blog and the Corcoran Web site.
What To Submit: It may be a stop-motion animation, sequence of stills or anything else you can come up with that moves Muybridge into 2010.
How to Submit: Videos should be submitted to YouTube through NPR’s YouTube Direct channel below. [there are links on NPR’s page] Make sure to tag them NPRMuybridge and include your email address in the description so we can get in touch with you. Photos should be submitted through Flickr and tagged NPRMuybridge. Include your email address in the caption. You’ll know if you’ve submitted photos correctly if they show up here.
Deadline: 11:59 p.m., May 15, 2010

“There’s a common story here, one about human animals making their way through rigid modern structures that restrict and define their flow of movement. In a sped-up world, perhaps the work of the man who stopped time and then put it back in motion makes some kind of sense.”

National Public Radio (NPR) is a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to 797 public radio stations in the United States.

Stephen Herbert

What is Muy Blog?

Paul Merton’s Weird and Wonderful World of Early Cinema

Paul Merton with one of the later Muybridge sequences, animated. (c) BBC.

In 2000 I was asked to create a mutoscope installation for the National Gallery exhibition Telling Time. I converted an 1890s Edison kinetoscope film sequence of dancer Annabelle into paper prints mounted on a belt (tedious and time consuming work), and reduced the ‘mechanism’ to a bare minimum – a roller with a handle. This arrangement ran for three months or so in the exhibition, alongside collotypes from Animal Locomotion, before the picture belt was donated to Hove Museum as part of their interactive display. I was pleased to see in a scene from Paul Merton’s Weird and Wonderful World of Early Cinema, that a decade later, Annabelle is still dancing at Hove. Which is a self-centred link to the programme, but this is my blog after all. With its excellent displays Hove Museum has become a natural home for investigating such subjects. It was also pleasing to see Eric Lange and Serge Bromberg of the French company Lobster Films, so important to the preservation and distribution of early cinema, being involved in the production.

This programme was an example of how, with the passage of time, exact factual details become rounded off and smoothed out, supposedly to make access to the information easier for the general viewer. The unprovenanced camera that Hove Museum bought at auction some years ago because it was the type used by George Albert Smith, and retained the circular type of mask that Smith used, has now become ‘the camera specifically built for Smith’. Merton tells an audience that yes, films had been in existence before being projected onto a screen, you turned a handle on a peepbox machine – when in fact the pre-projection Edison Kinetoscope peepshow was electrically driven, and the handcranked Mutoscope appeared only after the first screenings, which is a bit inconvenient from a simplified-history point of view. The film of a gardener being tricked by a boy, L’Arroseur Arrosé, (aka le Jardinier) was not, I’m fairly sure, the version shown at the first Lumière shows, but a remake. We can forgive that, as the film has a confusing history. (Nevertheless if anyone tried showing the remake of Stagecoach as the John Wayne version all hell would break loose.) Oh, and we were told that the Lumières’ gave their very first demonstration of the Cinématographe in December 1895 (not). And, restricting coverage to European cinema ensured that nothing need be said about the awkward fact that there had been film screenings in the USA prior to this. Chronology here:

The Harry Larkyns shooting. (c) BBC.

And Muybridge? Well he’s in there, including modern animations of horse sequences (the Palo Alto one is 1878/79, not 1877), but with nothing about how he made images move before celluloid film. Well all right, Zoopraxiscope is a bit of a jawbreaker, but glass picture discs could have been mentioned; it’s only three words. And the ‘zoetrope’ shown was a praxinoscope. (Do nature programmes get confused between goats and sheep?) Does any of this matter? I don’t know, perhaps I’m too close to the subject. The Larkyns affair is there of course, including a special acted bit of a man being shot and falling over. (But then who hasn’t arranged a re-enactment of the Larkyns shooting some time in their lives? I know I have…..)

Hard to please, ain’t I? But picky reservations aside, these programmes are valuable. To quote from The Bioscope, the premier website for silent film aficionados,

“Such programmes – which are rare enough in themselves – not only open up largely hidden films to new audiences, but should be a lesson to those of us who may know these films well to see them in a fresh light, not least as a television commissioner sees them.”

I enjoyed the excellent quality of the prints, especially the tinted examples, and Paul Merton has a very genuine interest in, and enthusiasm for, silent film material – even if his attempts to convey this to non-specialist audiences here sometimes come across as just a bit patronising, to the material as well as to the new audiences. The Paul Merton shows are part of a long tradition – I grew up with comedians Bob Monkhouse and Michael Bentine presenting silent movie clips on tv – and this one will certainly make the often amazing and frequently strange (weird and wonderful indeed) material of early (pre-WW1) cinema better known to many viewers.

BBC4 – you might just catch it on iPlayer, here:

Stephen Herbert