From Kingston boy to Google Doodle

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Thursday, 8 May (this week) at 6pm I shall be giving  talk at Kingston Museum, Wheatfield Way, Kingston upon Thames, KT1 2PS.

‘How did the young bookseller Ted Muggeridge from Kingston become renowned photographer Eadweard Muybridge of San Francisco, and how did Kingston Museum become the home of arguably the world’s most important Muybridge collection?’

and…

‘How is Muybridge’s work relevant to artists and the media of today?’

Find out on Thursday.

 

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

 

 

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Early Popular Visual Culture

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I’m a little late in posting details of a Special Muybridge issue of the Routledge academic journal Early Popular Visual Culture, for which I was pleased to be guest editor. The contents, in no particular order, are as follows:

Early Popular Visual Culture
Volume 11, Issue 1, 2013

Eadweard Muybridge issue : Introduction
Stephen Herbert

A ‘roundup’ of Muybridge-related activity, 2010-2012.

Reflections on time, motion and photomechanics
Jonathan Shaw

This article is a reflection on my own practice and its connection to changing representations of time and movement within photography. In my work as an artist and photographer, I have endeavoured to develop a particular perspective on the relation between the heritage of photomechanical tools, new technologies, memory and space. In what follows, I describe a series of pivotal moments in the formation of this perspective as they exemplify a specific strand of photography, showing how they connect to wider transformations in the field of visual cultures.

Loops and joins: Muybridge and the optics of animation
Esther Leslie

Film is rightly understood to be an art of movement, but stasis plays a role too, from the first films which cranked into seeming life out of stillness to the mechanisms of contemporary animation, which is pervasive in cinema today. This article explores the relationship of stillness and movement in early cinema and pre-cinematic optical technologies, which demand a flick of the wrist to produce movement out of stasis. Muybridge’s sequential photographs found their way into some of these early and later technologies and provided the basis for such demonstration of the emergence of movement out of stillness. If mobility and stillness are concentrated oppositions in Muybridge’s work, so too are the related themes of animation and inanimateness, a partnering that relates less to the analytical dissection of life and more to the evocation of a spirited magic.

Muybridge, authorship, originality
Marta Braun

This article addresses questions concerning photographic authorship and originality, and how these issues relate to the work of Eadweard Muybridge. The subject of legitimacy concerning the scientific nature of many of Muybridge’s photographs is reviewed, considering his retouching, cropping, and rearrangement of images. The role of the University of Pennsylvania’s ‘Muybridge Committee’ is also discussed.

Eadweard Muybridge: Inverted modernism and the stereoscopic vision
Marek Pytel

Eadweard Muybridge’s stereoscopic photographs, published in large numbers before his famous motion sequence series were taken, have had much less exposure, and have been subject to far less research, than his chronophotographic images. This short study of just one of the more enigmatic examples of his stereographs considers some relevant aspects of visual perception, and the circular image, proposing connections between these aspects of Muybridge’s work and the Rotoreliefs of Marcel Duchamp.

Chronophotography in the context of moving pictures
Deac Rossell

This article, originally a talk given at Kingston Museum in 2010, considers the ‘four great chronophotographers’ – Eadweard Muybridge, Étienne-Jules Marey, Georges Demenÿ, and Ottomar Anschütz, and their reputations as ‘inventors of cinema’ – in the context of achievements by lesser known workers including Victor von Reitzner, George William de Bedts, Ernst Kohlrausch, Robert Dempsey Gray, and William Gilman Thompson, many of whom saw a different methodology for making series photographs turn into moving pictures, for different purposes. The article suggests ways in which the story of chronophotography in the context of moving pictures is currently incomplete.

Plus related book reviews.

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Muybridge and The Smartest Kid on Earth

Now here’s something I missed a long time ago, and shouldn’t have. A graphic novel representation of Muybridge and his Zoopraxographical Hall at the 1893 World’s Fair, in Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, a graphic novel  written and illustrated by Chris Ware. (Pantheon Books 2000)

Wikipedia tell us: “The story was previously serialized in the pages of Ware’s comic book Acme Novelty Library, between 1995 and 2000 and previous to that, in the alternative Chicago weekly New City.

Plot summary
Jimmy Corrigan is a meek, lonely middle aged man who meets his father for the first time in a Michigan town over Thanksgiving weekend. Jimmy is an awkward and cheerless character with an overbearing mother and a very limited social life. Jimmy attempts to escape his unhappiness via an active imagination that gets him into awkward situations. A parallel story set in the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 shows Jimmy’s grandfather as a lonely little boy and his difficult relationship with an abusive father, Jimmy’s great grandfather. Another storyline shows Jimmy as a lonesome child of divorce, suggesting that this was Jimmy’s “real” childhood, while his “Smartest Kid on Earth” adventures are probably his fantasies.”

I have a sheaf of Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library comics still lying in a plan chest here, collected in the late 90s when I still maintained some knowledge of what was going on in the worlds of comics. I was very keen on Jimmy Corrigan, but certainly didn’t see the Muybridge pages.

One of the Jimmy Corrigan ‘Acme Novelty’ books

Another web site tells us: “Chris Ware was born in 1967 and his hugely popular Jimmy Corrigan was awarded The Guardian First Book Award in 2001. Although it originally appeared as a syndicated newspaper strip in London from 1993 to 1999, US author and artist Ware conceived it, from the outset, as a lengthy narrative.

The work, published by Jonathan Cape, combines innovative comic book art, hand lettering and graphic design to tell the story of Jimmy Corrigan, a boy with the face of a disappointed old man, and his relationship with his absent father.

Ware has stated that he drew inspiration from ‘original advertising drawings done for a depression-era Chicago cosmetics firm where all the typography was hand-done with a brush and white ink.’”

Chris Ware’s comics have included a cutout peepshow, zoetrope, flip book, and mutoscope.

Posted here by Stephen Herbert

Rats!

Phenakistiscope disc, pre-Muybridge

On the 8th December 1890 some residents of Gloucester received a more realistic experience of animals in motion than perhaps they were expecting, as the Gloucester Citizen reported the next day:

‘GLOUCESTER LITERARY AND SCIENTIFIC ASSOCIATION. [last evening] … the Corn Exchange was crowded, the attraction being a lecture by Mr. Eadweard Muybridge on ‘The Science of Animal Locomotion in its Relation to Design in Art.’ … There followed a description of the lecture, and finally….

‘One other word. The corporation ought really to keep their rats in better order than to allow them to career about the Corn Exchange on public occasions. The appearance of these rodents (whom a long succession of corn markets seems to have rendered enterprising to a most impudent and unpleasant degree) upon the screen last night would have been appropriate, and they might have served a useful purpose as illustrations of Mr. Muybridge’s points; but their practical demonstrations on the floor of the laws of animal locomotion – whatever relation it may have borne to their design and art – not only proved somewhat terrifying to ladies in the audience, but distracted attention from the lecturer and his subject. In the zoopraxiscope they would have been tolerable, even amusing and instructive; dodging among chair and other legs they constituted a nuisance and a cause of legitimate complaint.’

Reports of several lectures previously unrecorded in the Muybridge biographies and my own chronology have recently turned up, including:
27 January 1890, Lecture at Grantham.

28 January 1890 report on lecture, Nottingham Evening Post. LECTURE AT GRANTHAM ‘Last night, in connection with local science and art lcasses, a lecture was given in the Theatre, Grantham… “The Movements of Animals.”  ‘…Mr. Muybridge’s reputation had preceded him, as evidenced by the large audience then present.’

23 July 1890 (Weds) Burnley Express ‘The Directors of the Burnley Mechanics’ Institute are making arrangements for the usual series of lectures … an address will be given by Mr. Muybridge….’

4 October 1890 (Sat) Burnley Express, Advert: ‘Lectures for the People’ (Assembly Room). List includes : ‘Thursday Dec. 4th “Animal Locomotion in its relation to design in Art,” Professor EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE. Illustrated synthetically with the Zoopraxiscope.’

6 October 1890 (Mon) Gloucester Citizen, Gloucester Literary and Scientific Association advert. ‘Engagements are pending with the following and other lecturers… MR. EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE – “The Science of Animal Locomotion,” illustrated by the zoopraxis-cope….’

23 October 1890 (Thurs) Gloucester Citizen, Gloucester Literary and Scientific Association advert. ‘The Committee have the pleasure to announce ….. Thursday, December 11th, MR. EADWEARD MUYBRIDGE – “The Science of Animal Locomotion,”…’

6 December 1890 (Sat) Burnley Express p.5 ‘HOW MEN AND WOMEN WALK. ARTISTIC FALLACIES EXPOSED. At the Burnley Mechanics’ Institutution, on Thursday evening, the last of the series of  “lectures for the people” was given by Professor Eadweard Muybridge, of the University of Pennyslvania, U.S.A., to a large gathering…’ (Dr. Brumwall presided.) ‘…the lecturer was an original investigator, who had used in one summer alone 50,000 photographic plates…’

More will no doubt come to light this year, as I search the millions of pages now being digitised and made available online by the British Library. (Free at St Pancras, otherwise paid access, for a very reasonable range of fees.)

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)

Muybridge: The Eye in Motion

Professor Stephen Barber of Kingston University London, currently engaged in the Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship project on the Scrapbook of Eadweard Muybridge, has annouced details of his forthcoming book, Muybridge: the Eye in Motion, to be published by Solar Books (USA distribution by University of Chicago Press) in 2012. This promises to be a major new book, covering many aspects of the man and his work, as outlined in the Introduction. Central to the book is what Barber describes as ‘that unique ocular object’, now held by Kingston Museum:

Muybridge’s Scrapbook, in which he amassed every trace he viewed as essential about his work, across a span of over thirty years, so that it accumulated into an extraordinary memory-book that interrogated and overspilled time and its own parameters.

…. an aberrant vision-machine as well as a time-machine, and an irreducible archive in its own right, that holds revelations not only about Muybridge’s work, but also into the origins of film, the future of digital culture, and the perception of urban and corporeal forms.

The second part of the book examines

the close and revealing connections between Muybridge’s work and that of two key but neglected instigators of cinema, Max and Emil Skladanowsky, who undertook the first-ever public screening of celluloid-based films for a paying audience [in Europe] (using a projector, the ‘Bioskop’, they had built themselves, and showing films they had shot themselves, with a film-camera they had constructed themselves), on 1 November 1895, at a hotel in Berlin, two years after Muybridge’s formative glass-disc projection events in his Zoopraxographical Hall at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition

In the third part of this work, Professor Barber

… interrogates that pivotal memory-document of Muybridge’s work – in many ways, a crucial document for the understanding of how contemporary visual cultures originated – by disassembling it into the fragments from which it was created, in order to probe the all-encompassing ocular and corporeal processes at stake in Muybridge’s work.

Muybridge’s pervasive inspiration extends far beyond the domain of film and photography, encompassing visual art, poetry, performance, fiction, digital media, choreography, and theory.

The book also examines

… the archival, preservational implications of Muybridge’s work and its own movement into the future, as a body of work whose contrary amalgam is fused by preoccupations with loss, speed, perception, projection, corporeality, vision and the ‘tactile’ eye. In many ways, those preoccupations are exactly those of contemporary digital culture, and connect with archival issues around the uniqueness and potential reproducibility of objects, through such processes as digitisation. While forming a seminal presence for contemporary culture, Muybridge’s work, in its non-replicating resistance to assimilation, also necessitates an archive of its own. In a parallel way, his Scrapbook, itself a self-archiving by Muybridge of his work’s fragmentary traces in texts and images, also demands the formulation of an archive consisting of one unique artefact, in the way that Jacques Derrida, in his final interviews, envisaged objects of such all-consuming resonance that they required a tangible separation and a distinct space of their own, in order more intensively to then impact upon and reveal the surrounding worlds, and their visual cultures; in that sense, no object deserves its ‘sacrosanct’ one-artefact archive more than Muybridge’s Scrapbook.

Stephen Barber tackles  much, much more in this new work – do read the Introduction, which is online now.

http://muybridgesscrapbook.wordpress.com/2011/08/27/1-the-past-and-the-future/

Stephen Barber holds a PhD from the University of London. He has previously held posts at Sussex University, the University of Tokyo, the Berlin University of the Arts, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, the Keio University Research Centre for Art in Tokyo, and the California Institute of the Arts, where he was a Visiting Professor in 2007-8. He has been a Professor since 2002.

Stephen has received numerous awards and prizes for his research, from such foundations and funding bodies as the Leverhulme Trust, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy and the London Arts Board, in the UK; the Rockefeller Foundation, the Getty Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Annenberg Foundation, in the USA; the DAAD-Programm in Germany; the Japan Foundation, the Daiwa Foundation, and the Saison Foundation, in Japan

Posted here by Stephen Herbert