A lecture by Eadweard Muybridge, this Saturday

MuyInvite

 

http://www.othercinema.com/calendar/index.html

ANALOG CHURCH SAT 12/8: ROURKE + WOOD + KATELUS + RADIOPHONICS +
Indulging our love for forgotten formats and media archeology lore, Jeremy Rourke & Co. debut two live musical performances, The Biography of a Motion Picture Camera and The Paperman May Charleston. Ben Wood, in the apparel of none other than Eadweard Muybridge, affords us a charmed glimpse into those halcyon days of the Magic Lantern. Doug Katelus, as Hammond organist for the night, offers his 16mm Help Keep Film Dead, on the last days of Monaco Lab. Lori Varga, as high priestess for tonight’s “church,” powers up her 4 projectors in Beyond the Frames of Light and Strange Sound. PLUS Russ Forster with an in-person tribute to Bill Lear, inventor of the eponymous jet AND the 8-track tape! AND a half-hr cut of the BBC‘s Alchemists of Sound, on the UK Radiophonic Workshop, boasting Doctor Who composer Delia Derbyshire.*$7.

[Now that’s what I call a “mixed programme”.]

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Spring / Summer Roundup

I’ve been neglecting this blog for too long – due to minor distractions such as earning a living. But also, there hasn’t been too much Muybridge activity these past few months. Here’s a brief roundup.

A new Muybridge song appeared on YouTube recently, and although I prefer ‘Good Evening, Major’, this one – which also has a ukulele as the lead instrument – is a pleasant enough ditty about love and murder. Perhaps some day there will be enough songs for an album.

‘Caroline Grannell performs her original song “Eadweard Muybridge” (true story!!!) with the wonderful ICMP band Ago, Alessandro, Benji and Natasha North’

YouTube continues to be a source of many short Muybridge-related videos, mostly student animations. But here’s something – Tim Cole’s Mining for Muybridge – that’s more ambitious, and more sophisticated than most.

This installation ‘Muybridge men’ (is this the original title?) has a mesmeric, zoetropic effect:

Kinetica Art Fair is produced by Kinetica Museum

http://www.kinetica-museum.org/events/talks-workshops.html

‘…and is the first of its kind in the UK. It brings together galleries, art organisations and curatorial groups from around the world who focus on kinetic, electronic, robotic, sound, light, time-based and multi-disciplinary new media art, science and technology.’

As everyone will already know, Google decided to celebrate Muybridge’s 182nd birthday in April, with one of their doodles. With a milestone birthday like that I should have anticipated such a thing, but I didn’t and a proportion of the hundreds of millions of people who logged onto Google that day checked out Muybridge on Wikipedia, and a proportion of those craving still more info clicked through from there to my website The Complete Muybridge, increasing my daily traffic by around 1000 percent, requiring a bandwidth upgrade. (Still, mustn’t grumble.)

Muybridge in Manchester

The very welcome access to searchable digital scans of millions of “new” pages of British Newspapers (with more being added all the time), has started to give new information on Muybridge’s whereabouts and activities. I have had an ongoing problem with establishing the dates of his Manchester lectures c.1890, mentioned by Hendricks but difficult to pin down. The originals of the relevant newspapers at Colindale were unavailable for conservation reasons, and a quick check of available microfilms proved a dead end. Too lazy to go to Manchester to check originals there, I’ve waited until the scans were available online.

The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser includes an advertisement (22 January 1890) for his lecture given that evening at the Manchester Athenaeum, which was repeated at the Concert Hall, Peter-street, on February 21st., “before a large audience”.

On 4 March 1890 the Manchester Courier, page 8, notes the purchase of:
“….Mr. Muybridge’s instantaneous photographs of animals in motion. These will be of great use to artists and scientific investigators, and cannot be considered dearly bought for £105, as they consist no less than 780 plates and fill 11 folio volumes…”

On 15 December 1890, the same newspaper noted (page 7): CONVERSAZIONE AT OWENS COLLEGE. “Mr. Muybridge gave an exhibition of instantaneous photographs in the Council Chamber… “, and on 18th December there appeared a report, p.6, of a lecture the previous evening in the Town Hall, to “a crowded audience”.

And it’s here that things get interesting. My chronology includes a lecture at the Hotel de la Société de Geographie in Paris on 24 January 1891, reported in the San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin on February 28th. But then, the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser for 19 February 1891, includes an advertisement for a lecture to be given in Manchester on the 27th.

So … if my transcriptions of the San Francisco Bulletin are correct (it’s not unknown for me make mistakes 😉 and it’s difficult to check this one at present), this means that Muybridge was lecturing in Manchester on 18 December 1890, popped over to Paris for a presentation on 24 January 1891, scuttled back to Manchester to give a talk on 27 February, before careering off to Berlin for talks in early March. No flying, and no Eurotunnel, either.

All of this will be checked out before being added to the Chronology.

The British Library newspapers search facility is free, with charges for seeing digital scans of the results.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Iconic Kingston mosaic needs help

Linder Rothery and Ania Zawisza. Photo: Surrey Comet

News today from the Surrey Comet

Help needed to restore iconic Kingston mosaic
10:30am Monday 5th December 2011
 by Claire Buchanan

An iconic mosaic inspired by the work of photographic pioneer Eadweard Muybridge is being repaired by volunteers – but they need your help to finish the job. More than 15 volunteers have started work on the Castle Street mosaic, which fell into disrepair when tiles dropped off earlier this year due to the expansion and contraction of the wooden backboard. The helpers at Save the World Club, who designed and produced the piece, are now laying down tiles on mesh to recreate the mosaic by Kingston-born Muybridge, which they hope to make even better. Mosaic artist Kim Porrelli said: “It’s become a heritage thing in the town centre and it’s such a shame and we want to put it back. “We want Kingston to look as fantastic as it can, particularly before the Olympics.”

The mosaic, which consists of seven 8ft by 4ft sections, is expected to take 280 hours of work to complete and a further 10 days to mount it. Secretary of Save the World Club Mary Graham said the work could cost up to £3,000, due to the specialist skills needed for the instillation. She said: “We do not have that amount of money spare in our funds – we need help urgently to raise this money.”
Kingstonfirst has helped install the original mosaic and have donated money towards its repair. Town centre manager Ros Morgan said: “The mosaic reflects a key element of Kingston’s heritage, on a major pedestrian route into the town, and we would urge people to support its restoration so that it can be speedily reinstalled.”

Ania Zawisza, Kim Porrelli, Linder Rothery and Mary Graham. Surrey Comet

St Luke’s School pupil Ellie Felicien, 11, won a competition to make a Muybridge-style design for the mural, which was unveiled in 2004. Muybridge was the pioneer of moving photography, inventing his famous machine called a zoopraxiscope.
The club is looking for donations and for volunteers to help rebuild the artwork.
To donate text MUYM11 £ (amount) to 70070.
To get involved email kim@savetheworldclub.org.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Degas and ‘Picturing Movement’ at the Royal Academy

Your tardy blogger has finally been to see Degas and the Ballet. Picturing Movement, at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. A brief visit only, and I shall be returning for a more extensive tour – to learn more about Degas and enjoy his paintings, drawings and sculptures, and not just to admire the exhibits relating to chronophotography – before the show closes on 11 December.

An unrepeatable opportunity to see all of these Degas works, so do try to get to the exhibition if you can. First impressions then.

The catalogue, by Richard Kendall and Jill Devonyar is an attractive and engaging piece of research and presentation and great value (reduced to less than £15 at the time of my visit). Muybridge images used include the usual Zoopraxiscope colour photograph (with the top and chimney that don’t actually belong); the colour disc White and Black Running Race; a nice 1889 letter from Muybridge to Frederick A. Eaton of the RA, concerning Muybridge’s forthcoming lectures there; and a single image from ‘Annie G. in Canter’ (Animal Locomotion plate 621) together with an exact copy in chalk by Degas. Many images relating to Marey’s work are also included. The text concerning the relationships between the work of Marey, Muybridge, and Degas is carefully researched and well written and very interesting to read; and of permanent value.

White and Black Race (Zoopraxiscope disc)

The exhibition is spread through several rooms and wasn’t crowded during my visit. There’s a great deal of material concerning the relationship between Degas and photography in general, as well as chronophotography. Most of the Muybridge material relates to aspects of dance postures. One of Marey’s large chrono plate cameras sits in a rather gloomy cabinet in one corner, failing to look interesting. The Zoopraxiscope is better presented, but in a context that raises some questions. In the same cabinet is one picture disc, the 1893 Athletes Running (White and Black Running Race); two athletes, one white and one black, compete in a track race, with a large audience of matchstick figures in the background. This disc is one of the series of drawings based on Muybridge photo sequences combined with imaginary elements – in this case the people watching the race. On the wall above the machine is a large video projection; an animation of a Muybridge sequence of a male athlete performing a ballet-related movement, taken from an Animal Locomotion reproduction of the actual photographic images. Judging from the overheard discussions of those examining this exhibit, visitors are understandably confused. The animation that they’re watching doesn’t appear to have anything in common with the images on the displayed picture disc.

First Ballet Action (from Animal Locomotion)

Of course it’s tempting to animate the Animal Locomotion sequences as the result is very seductive, but it seems to me that this particular exhibit should have had, instead, an accompanying video of a disc animation – perhaps the popular subject Woman Dancing [Kingston EM0052] which is probably the most relevant to the exhibition’s subject – to bring some point to the display of the Zoopraxiscope. The exhibition curators have missed an important trick here, since the animated disc images would have made apparent to the visitor a lesser-known aspect of Muybridge’s work that relates directly to drawing and painting, surely of interest in an exhibition about Degas and movement. The catalogue touches on the production methods of the actual disc pictures and gets it nearly right, so it’s difficult to understand how this misleading display option was decided upon. And since the name of the artist, Irwin Faber, who interpreted and drew these extrapolations from Muybridge sequences is known, that name should have been there too. It seems that there’s still some way to go before art historians apply their usually very meticulous discipline in presenting accounts of technical processes and artist attribution, to peripheral subjects such as Zoopraxography. But there was a certain satisfaction in seeing the Zoopraxiscope back at the RA, after almost 130 years.

More on the exhibition, with less harping on about my own view of its very few shortcomings, soon.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

(White and Black Race Running Race photo courtesy Kingston Museum)

Flying Horse, the movie

Bill Douglas in 1972

Inevitably, the name Bill Douglas had to crop up in Muy Blog at some time. I’ve been bumping into Bill, and later his legacy, for almost forty years. The first time was when, as a young projectionist at the National Film Theatre in London, I was screen checking the new 16mm print of his film My Childhood (1972), just before an important showing – perhaps its British premiere. Afterwards I was walking through the foyer and spotted a character standing by the doors, chain smoking and looking very nervous. I remember thinking ‘That’s got to be the director.’ The film won the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and became the first of a trilogy dramatising Bill’s life. In the 80s I would often see Bill and his lifelong friend Peter Jewell at a weekend book sale or antique photo fair in one of the London hotels, and a few times chatted about treasures acquired, as fellow collectors of books and objects relating to film and pre-cinema. Bill and Peter came to the opening of my 1990 exhibition Magical Lanterns at London’s Museum of the Moving Image (co-curated with Lester Smith) and Lester’s photograph of Bill beside the silhouette lanternist from the extraordinary Bill Douglas feature Comrades (1987) is a favourite that’s often used to illustrate articles about the late director.

Bill died of cancer the following year; as Peter said at his NFT remembrance event, ‘Mr Benson and Mr Hedges killed him.’ For that special remembrance day I was involved in putting together many short out-takes from Comrades, as a one-off presentation.

I remember the flat where Bill and Peter lived in Soho, its walls double and triple lined with books, and was privileged to see some of their collection at Peter’s family home in Devon. After the establishment of the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture at Exeter University, the collection’s eventual home, I sat on the Management Board for some years and was responsible, with Richard Crangle, for arranging the original museum display at the Centre. Today this includes a cabinet of Muybridge items, and a full-size print of the 13-panel San Francisco Panorama, copied from the orginal at Kingston Museum. Bill’s last script was for a feature entitled Flying Horse – about Eadweard Muybridge, of course. Which is where we came in.

Flying Horse script. Bill Douglas Centre, University of Exeter

This month in Edinburgh there is to be a Bill Douglas Weekend. In one of the articles promoting the event the Muybridge script is mentioned, and the slight possibility that the movie could yet be made. With the Andy Serkis feature apparently about to go into production, this seems less likely than ever. I have mixed feelings about the possibility of Flying Horse finally being produced. The script could certainly make a good film, but what chance of finding a director who would make it a great one, as Bill surely would have done? His innate understanding of the nature of the cinematic moving picture and how it is created and perceived from a fragmented stream of images – an aspect which must surely be central to any telling of the Muybridge story in the moving picture medium – is unusual, even amongst talented film directors, and the possibilities are only hinted at in the script. What visual poetry Bill Douglas would have made of this extraordinary subject.

Bill Douglas Centre, University of Exeter

The Bill Douglas Weekend is at Craigmillar Art Centre, Newcraighall Road, Edinburgh, on 29-30 of October. The Bill Douglas Trilogy and Comrades have been released on DVD by the BFI, priced £22.99.

 

Posted here by Stephen  Herbert