Muybridge: The Eye in Motion (2012)

Muybridge The Eye in Motion front cover

 

All contemporary visual culture can be traced back to the seminal work of Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), whose prolific and inspirational experiments in photography, moving-images, animation and projection shattered the boundaries of how images and human bodies are perceived. Muybridge’s work had a pivotal twentieth-century influence on artists such as Francis Bacon, but that work’s full impact is only now being clearly seen and experienced in the era of digital culture. Muybridge’s obsessional work is powered by an extreme excess and itinerancy that allowed him to negate all preconceptions and to instigate the means by which physical time and space are created and transformed by images. Above all, Muybridge envisioned cinema, by devising a moving-image projector – the Zoopraxiscope – for his image sequences, and by constructing the first identifiably cinematic space for his images’ projection to spectators.

In this innovative and groundbreaking book, based on extensive primary research into Muybridge’s personal archive and projection-devices, Stephen Barber analyses his work principally through the extraordinary medium of Muybridge’s own Scrapbook: a multi-dimensional ‘memory-book’, created in the final years of his life, which illuminates both the preoccupations driving his experiments in moving-images, and his work’s prefiguring of the digital world. The book also explores the intimate connections between Muybridge’s work and that of other key innovators of moving-image projection, such as the Skladanowsky Brothers in Berlin, in an era when moving-images were seen simultaneously as awe-inspiring and diabolical. The book presents Muybridge – a self-confessed killer who was part spectacular-showman, part artist, part mad-scientist – as a vital contemporary figure.

Opening Extract:

“Eadweard Muybridge’s seminal body of work forms a vital presence – in many ways, the determining force – in envisaging the future, and remembering the past, of experiments in visual culture and media forms: above all, the medium of film. Composed of innumerable fragments of images and texts, it is a body of work with total immediacy, excessively charged into the contemporary moment, and transmitting itself from that moment throughout all temporal, as well as spatial, dimensions. The documents of Muybridge’s work and of his working process, particularly those documents that he assembled himself and saw as carrying his work’s traces into the future, form invaluable means to understand and explore its intricate, multiple itinerary. Pre-eminent among those documents is 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. In Muybridge’s work, the eye – that of Muybridge himself, of the visualised eye, and of his work’s spectator – is perpetually in movement across those newly torn-open zones in corporeal time and space.”

Published by Chicago University Press (Solar series), 2012

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