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)

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

Did Muybridge build the American Great Lakes in his Kingston back garden?

The following report is from the Croydon Guardian

Beasley’s panoramas of Muybridge’s garden

will be displayed on postcards you can take away from the exhibition

12:35pm Thursday 18th November 2010

By Graham Moody
http://www.croydonguardian.co.uk/leisure/leisurenews/8674860.Did_Muybridge_build_the_American_Great_Lakes_in_his_Kingston_back_garden_/

There’s been a long-standing rumour about Eadweard Muybridge and a last great project he was said to be undertaking in the back garden of his Kingston home shortly before his death in 1904.

The renowned photographer is believed to have been creating a scale model of the American Great Lakes by digging ponds but no one has yet been able to ascertain whether or not he really was.

Artist Becky Beasley is now the world expert on the subject and has perhaps come closest to finding a conclusive answer which she unveil at her exhibition as part of the Muybridge in Kingston series at the Stanley Picker Gallery from Wednesday.

“The rumour about Muybridge’s last project is something that is really interesting for me,” she explains.

“A lot of people have tried to get access to his garden in Liverpool Road but there are big gated walls around the house and there was an access denied there if you like.

“I wrote to the owners though and explained to them what I wanted to do and they gave me access and allowed me to take photos.

“And so I made two 360 degree panoramas as there are two spaces in the garden, a small one and a larger space.

“The reason for the panorama is because I was inspired by Muybridge’s Panorama of San Francisco in 1878 that is still described as one of the best panoramas ever.”

Beasley’s panoramas of Muybridge’s garden will be displayed on postcards you can take away from the exhibition along with a pamphlet detailing her findings (which she is keeping tightly under wraps for now), all of which will be based on an expensive linoleum floor “For me the most ambitious part of the project is the linoleum floor I have decided to lay in the 140m square space,” says Beasley.

“I have designed an image that will be put into it and likened it to making a movie as it is centrally very expensive and a one off that will only be down for two weeks.

“There will be these two tall thin revolving postcard rails each with images from one section of the garden and they will be things you can take away.

“Although it is very much a landscape space we have opened it up and taken all of the temporary walls down so it will be a big open space that means as soon as you enter you will see everything all at once.

“You will feel like you are in a garden in terms of scale.”

Becky Beasley, Muybridge in Kingston Contemporary Commissions, Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston University, November 24 to February 5, 12pm to 6pm (not Monday), free. Call 020 8417 4074 or visit stanleypickergallery.org.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Fish Tank Tuesday

This video on YouTube, Fish Tank Tuesday, captures  some of the recent nocturnal moving image projections in Muybridge’s birthplace, Kingston. The goldfish swimming on the front wall of the Rose Theatre are just yards from Muybridge’s childhood home (the building on the left in the top photo, now a computer shop).

On the evening that this video was taken, just across the street from what was, in the mid 19th century, the dwelling of the Muggeridge household is a giant silhouette of a running deer – a moving image produced from Muybridge’s own animated pictures.

 


And this animation alternates with a sequence showing the frozen successive positions of a galloping horse, advertising the current Muybridge show at Tate Britain, and a poster for the exhibitions of … Muybridge in Kingston. Strange to think of the young Edward in the 1830s and 40s, peering out of those windows at no.30 but never, in his wildest flights of fancy, imagining that in the distant future the immortal results of his own life’s work would be visible as giant, glowing, living pictures on the walls of the buildings in his own hometown High Street.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Revolutions opens at Kingston!


Lantern slide. Courtesy: Kingston Museum

Muybridge in Kingston: Muybridge Revolutions
18 Sept 2010 – 12 Feb 2011

Don’t take my word for it – see for yourself the wonderful exhibition at Kingston Museum – now running.

I was pleased to be asked to give a talk on the opening night (yesterday), following a shadow-play workshop by Zannie Fraser, and a magic lantern show by Mervyn Heard.

Large Muybridge in Kingston posters greeted us as we walked to the Museum from the Station; an impressive promotion.

From the first glance, it’s obvious that this is a very special exhibition. The quality of the design, build, (by James Rowlands) and of course the academic work by Peta Cook and Alexandra Reynolds that very clearly underpins the display will, I feel, be evident to any visitor.

 

Photo courtesy Peta Cook

Late night installation by James Rowlands and team.

And the artefacts look wonderful – even to those of us familiar with them. At last, this world-class Muybridge collection can be seen for what it is, even though two important objects – the 17ft long panorama of San Francisco, and the original Zoopraxiscope – are at Tate Britain. (There’s a faithful replica Zoop in the Kingston show.) But this exhibition is about the images that Muybridge showed on the screen, explained and displayed in detail – complete with animations – for the first time. Congratulations to Kingston Museum on fully achieving the objective. And I understand that an extra section, in the old Muybridge Gallery on the ground floor, will open around 1st October.

Lantern slide. (c) Kingston Museum

No time to properly absorb everything last night, so a full review – with actual details rather than just superlatives – some time soon, after a second visit.

Mo and I were invited to join a dozen or so for a meal afterwards, and we sat by the River in a restaurant/bar on the ground that was once the garden-yard of the Muggeridges, behind their home in the High Street, where one hundred and sixty years ago young Edward said goodbye to his family and set off on an adventure to the New World.

This exhibition places Muybridge’s unique discs within the context of both his career and the history of moving image projection. Displayed alongside the discs are some of the original photographic sequences that informed them, represented as collotype prints and images on glass. The relationship between the original photographic sequences and the discs form an integral part of a new interpretation of his work, the result of new research into the Kingston Muybridge collection.

Other items on display include examples of Muybridge’s rare and intriguing ‘coded’ lecture slides, some of his equipment and a unique scrapbook charting his phenomenal career.  Many of these objects have never been seen on public display before, providing an exciting opportunity to provide people with rare access to new knowledge through this important collection.

To accompany the original objects, a beautiful replica of the Zoöpraxiscope forms a central part of the exhibition, alongside a specially commissioned set of animations which emulate the original experience afforded Muybridge’s audience through the Zoöpraxiscope.

Also open now is the contemporary work ‘Dance of Ordinariness’ by Trevor Appleson, at the Stanley Picker Gallery.

http://www.muybridgeinkingston.com/event.php

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Move! at NK Gallery, Boston

September 2010

NKG presents MOVE! an exhibition that relates to movement through space and time. Jeffrey P. Heyne and Rufus Butler Seder, two artists that live and work in New England both use photography as a starting point and challenge the temporal quality of movement. This exhibition will open September 1, 2010 and run through September 26, with opening reception Friday, September 10, 5 – 8 PM

(Images from left going clockwise: Rufus Butler Seder “Figure Descending a Staircase”, Lifetiles, 4’w x 6’h, 2009; Jeffrey Heyne “Muybridge Boxers No. 10+1”, 2009 & “Muybridge Boxers No. 9+7”, 2010, both digital print and polyester resin on Dibond panels)
by Kathy A. Halamka

“We just opened (September 1) a visually energetic exhibition called “Move!” at NK Gallery. The artists featured are Jeffrey Heyne and Rufus Butler Seder. Their images pay homage and play with, in different ways, to Eadweard Muybridge’s  photographic movement studies. Jeffrey Heyne was inspired by flip books of Muybridge’s images, and his manipulations bring the frozen images back to movement, then freezes them again in a visually seductive resin surface. Rufus Butler Seder has developed a lenticular  form of glass tile he calls Lifetiles, and at his studio creates all the many stages to build both small and very large murals of moving images – one of the ones at NK Gallery evokes the Muybridge Galloping Horse.”

http://artthatislife.blogspot.com/2010/09/move-at-nk-gallery.html

NK Gallery LLC (NKG) was established in 2010 by Natacha Sochat and Kathy Halamka. Our artists represent a broad and vibrant contemporary spectrum of ideas, approaches, and materials.

http://www.nkgboston.com/

JEFFREY P. HEYNE

Statement

“My current series of works are reinterpretations of Eadweard Muybridge’s stop-motion photos from the 1880’s. It is from toy flip-books of the photos comprising his seminal publication, Animal Locomotion, which my work borrows from.

I am interested in the idea of playing with his iconic images– to make his frozen photos “move” again. Muybridge’s high shutter speeds broke down movement into distinct visual images, separated by equal intervals of time that could be analyzed frame by frame, and to observe a cause and effect sequence for scientific study. From a physical point of view, each of the still images is actually a record of a period of time of about 1/2000 of a second, a short time but still a duration of time. From a phenomenological point of view though, can this freeze-frame image, in a sense, be re-activated to release the latent motion it originally recorded?

With Photoshop, I alter Muybridge’s image by distorting, blurring, warping, stretching, or twisting to imply a sense of motion. I would like to elicit a metaphorical sense of allowing time to re-flow. Like pressing <PLAY> after the <PAUSE> button has been on for the past 125 years.

But how is this new motion read in today’s time? What visual consequences present themselves by re-animating the flow of time? I feel a new narrative is posed by the isolation of a single Muybridge image from the context of its original sequence. My selection of alternate colors further jars the meaning. Effects of blurring and distortion torque the space. Multiple and mirror images lend tension or evoke other pattern-based associations.

With the application of a thick top coat of glossy resin, the picture plane of the photo image is visually slippery, and appears to float somewhere within the thickness. I think of my Muybridge images as cast in another type of frozen state, much like an ancient biological specimen locked away within a piece of crystalline amber.”

http://www.nkgboston.com/Artists/JeffreyPHeynen.html
RUFUS BUTLER SEDER

“Years ago, as a filmmaker, a fascination with antique motion picture toys led me to wonder if I could create movies on a grand scale using no electricity, moving parts or special lighting.

After some experiment I developed an 8” square, three-pound, lens-ribbed glass tile, which I called a LIFETILE. By combining many LIFETILES, I found I was able to create large-scale “Movies for the Wall”: optical wall pieces that appear to come to life, move and change when the observer walks by.

Since 1990 I have created large-scale LIFETILES murals for the Smithsonian Institute, AMTRAK, the BART subway system in San Francisco, science museums, aquariums, zoos and dozens of other public places around the world. While I continue to accept commissions, I now also create smaller, limited-edition LIFETILES compositions for galleries and private collectors.

The success of LIFETILES inspired me to develop my own patented line of smaller-optically animated items: CineSpinner™ Suncatchers with images that spring to life in a window when they rotate at the end of their string and Smart Move™ greeting cards with pictures than move realistically when they are opened. I also continue to expand a line of bestselling childrens’ Scanimation® books for Workman Publishing.

When I design any one of my works in these mediums I have invented, large or small, my goal is always the same. I am going for that signature motion that instantly defines the subject to the observer. I want to make you feel the weightless thrill of a dancer’s leap or the elastic coil and spring of a running cat. When I succeed, I feel as though I’ve created a little bit of life itself.”

http://www.nkgboston.com/Artists/RufusButlerSeder.html

New toy from Rufus here:

https://ejmuybridge.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/the-strobotop-another-winner-from-rufus-at-eye-think-inc/

Posted here by Stephen Herbert, website The Compleat Muybridge

Setting Time in Motion

Now here’s a treat – a preview of the short video made by Chocolate Films, for the Muybridge Revolutions exhibition at Kingston Museum.

“Chocolate Films is an award-winning video production company specialising in documentaries. We produce high quality films for cinema, television, commercial and community clients. Founded as a not-for-profit enterprise, we combine our commercial work with courses and projects, which enable children, young people and community groups to make films.”

Check out the video on their new website.
http://chocolatefilms.com/

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

For Your Diary September-October 2010

from a lantern slide, Kingston Museum

Lots happening Muybridge-wise in the UK over the next few months. Here are some of the events taking place during September and October. More details as they emerge.

Eadweard Muybridge at Tate Britain
8 Sept – 16 Jan
Tate Britain, Millbank
First major UK retrospective of Muybridge’s entire career.
Tickets £10/£8.50 from htpp://www.tate.org.uk/britain

Muybridge in Kingston Launch Day
Sat 18 Sept 12.30-7pm
Kingston Museum & Stanley Picker Gallery
Public launch of the Muybridge in Kingston exhibitions with special events for all the family, including a magic lantern show from Professor Heard, shadow puppetry from Zannie Fraser and an evening launch lecture on Muybridge’s links to the history of the moving and projected image by Muybridge expert Stephen Herbert.
All welcome – no booking required.

Park Nights at Serpentine Gallery Pavilion
Becky Beasley & Chris Sharp
Fri 24 Sept 8pm
Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens
13 pieces, 17 feet is a monologue in thirteen parts that finds its point of departure in Muybridge’s extraordinary 1878 San Francisco panorama.
Tickets £5/£4 from http://www.serpentinegallery.org/park_nights/

Late at Tate: Eadweard Muybridge
Fri 1 Oct 6pm-10pm
Tate Britain, Millbank
An evening of Muybridge-inspired events.
Visit htpp://www.tate.org.uk/britain for further details.

In Conversation: Trevor Appleson
Wed 6 October 7pm
Stanley Picker Gallery
Exploring Muybridge’s influence on contemporary arts practitioners.
Limited seating – to reserve a FREE place please call 020 8417 4074

Muybridge & Moving Image History
Thurs 14 Oct, 28 Oct & 11 Nov 7pm
Kingston Museum
Evening lecture series offering unique insights into the relationship between Muybridge’s work and the history of visuality, film and animation.
Limited seating – to reserve a FREE place please call 020 8547 6460

Posted here by Stephen Herbert