Silent World is an engrossing short film comprised of an apocalyptic series of photographs by Paris-based filmmakers/photographers Lucie & Simon, set to the music of Philip Glass and Daft Punk. When you think of ghost towns, your mind doesn’t typically gravitate to New York City, Paris or Beijing. Yet that’s what these teeming cities have become in the hands of Lucie & Simon.
Lucie & Simon have used a digital scalpel and a special filter to remove humans from the city landscapes. They have left just enough evidence of our species’ presence, a lone woman in a blood-red coat in Madison Square Garden or a hoisted flag in Tiananmen Square, to make the mysterious, mass disappearances as uncannily disturbing as possible.
Many city dwellers no doubt have dreamed of a magically emptied and peaceful metropolis. But Silent World suggests that life would not be so peaceful in a completely silent city. It’s unnatural and threatening; the uneasy feeling of being the last person on earth could build and build until one goes mad.
Eadweard Muybridge, Ruins of the Church of San Domingo, Panama, 1875
Eadweard Muybridge, Ruins of a Church, Antigua, Guatemala, 1875
Eadweard Muybridge, The Ramparts, Fisherman’s Bay, South Farallon Island, 1871
Eadweard Muybridge, Lighthouse at Punta de los Reyes, Seacoast of California, 1871
Eadweard Muybridge, Bridge on the Porto Bello, Panama, 1875
Helios: The Pioneering Photography of Eadweard Muybridge
Helios: Eadweard Muybridge in a Time of Change is an exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), which presents the first-ever retrospective examination of all aspects of artist Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering photography. Best known for his groundbreaking studies of animals and humans in motion, what a magnificent photographer Eadweard Muybridge was and what a brilliant eye he had is too often overlooked. In addition to his iconic studies of animals in motion, Muybridge (1830-1904) was also an innovative and successful landscape and survey photographer, documentary artist, inventor and war correspondent.
The works in this exhibition have been brought together from 38 different collections and include a number of Muybridge’s photographs of Yosemite Valley, images of Alaska and the Pacific coast, pictures from Panama and Guatemala and urban panoramas of San Francisco, most of which were published under the pseudonym “Helios.” The exhibition also includes examples from Muybridge’s experimental series of sequential stop-motion photographs, such as his masterpieces The Horse in Motion and Animal Locomotion.
Philip Glass: The Photographer, A Gentleman’s Honor (1983) to Eadweard Muybridge
Flicker: A Moment in the Life of Eadweard Muybridge
Flicker is a short one-minute experimental film that was directed by Hamish Anderson, a talented young English filmmaker. Flicker is presently on The 2008 Shortlist of Filminute, a juried international one-minute film festival that challenges filmmakers to develop and submit the world’s best one-minute films. Hamish Anderson is a university student who is the son of the British film artist Peter Anderson. Prior to making Flicker, Hamish created a documentary made in Zambia with UNICEF and a three-minute film, Canned Spirit, about an English graffiti artist.
Hamish lives in Oxford, England, and the film set for Flicker was created in his home there. In addition to filmmaking, Anderson’s other creative talents include drawing and design; accordingly, he drew the dogs that appear in the film with a fine black pen, and he also made the zoetrope (the spinning device that shows the drawings of the dogs).
Flicker is a film that uniquely and explicitly reveals an image of artistic convergence. Anderson describes his film as “a filmic representation of a moment in the life of the pioneering photographer, Eadweard Muybridge.” Muybridge is legendary for his “Horse in Motion” high-speed photographs of a trotting horse, which resolved the long-running controversy over whether all of the horse’s four feet ever leave the ground at the same time. The “Horse in Motion” photographs are considered by many in the know to be the world’s first motion pictures.
Curiously, Anderson describes his film as the portrayal of “a moment” in the life of Muybridge, but he doesn’t further specify what he intends that particular moment to be. Actually, Flicker depicts a convergence of moments. At one level, the film could simply be taken as an illustration of “the moment” in which Muybridge was first able to display his photographs as moving pictures. But it’s important to note that Anderson is not displaying Muybridge’s own photographs in his film. Instead, he’s using drawings of Muybridge’s photographs, which in fact replicates another significant “moment” or event that actually took place in Muybridge’s own life.
That “convergent moment” involved the relationship between the mercurial Muybridge and his financial patron, Leland Stanford (a Former California Governor). It was the “moment” in Muybridge’s life when their relationship completely broke down after Stanford commissioned a book called The Horse in Motion as Shown by Instantaneous Photography. That 1882 book omitted the actual photographs that had been taken by Muybridge, relying instead on drawings and engravings based upon the photographs, and at the same time the book gave Muybridge little credit for his work.
Flicker: Animals in Unsupported Transit
Eadweard Muybridge’s Horse in Motion: The World’s First Motion Pictures
The Horse in Motion: Freezing Time
He was one of the most famous people of the 19th century, but the name of Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) is nearly unknown today. In 1855, Muybridge left England and settled in San Francisco, starting his career as a publisher’s agent and bookseller. He left San Francisco at the end of that decade, and after a stagecoach accident in which he received severe head injuries returned to England for a few years. Muybridge reappeared in San Francisco in 1866 and rapidly became successful in the photography profession, focusing almost entirely on landscape and architectural subjects.
In 1872, the former Governor of California Leland Stanford, a businessman and race-horse owner, had taken a stance about a then popularly-debated question of the day: whether all four of a horse’s hooves left the ground at the same time during a gallop. Stanford sided with the assertion that they did, an idea called “unsupported transit“, and took it upon himself to prove it scientifically. To prove Stanford’s claim, Muybridge developed a new photographic technique that facilitated instantaneous motion picture capture. In 1877, Muybridge settled Stanford’s question with a single photographic negative that showed Stanford’s racehorse Occident airborne in the midst of a gallop.
By 1878, encouraged by Leland Stanford to expand his experiment, Muybridge had successfully photographed a horse in fast motion using a series of twenty-four cameras. The first public demonstration of his new moving picture technique successfully took place on June 11th, and it was attended by members of the press. Muybridge used a series of 12 stereoscopic cameras, set 21 inches apart to cover the 20 feet taken by one horse stride, taking pictures at one thousandth of a second. The cameras were arranged parallel to the track, with trip-wires attached to each camera shutter that were triggered by the horse’s hooves.
This series of photos is known as The Horse in Motion, and it shows that the hooves do all leave the ground, although not with the legs fully extended forward and back, as contemporary illustrators had tended to imagine. Rather, it occurred at the moment when all the hooves are tucked under the horse, as it switches from “pulling” from the front legs to “pushing” from the back legs.
Few people remember that those photos were just a beginning for Muybridge. Through further work, he was able to develop his new technology so that it took the extended series of images and transformed them into the first moving pictures. Twenty years before Thomas Edison popularized his own projector, Muybridge was filling auditoriums across the United States and Europe with audiences eager to see the first motion pictures. Later, Edison did all that he could to obscure the true origins of the cinema, in order to protect his own patents.
Horse in Motion: The World’s First Motion Pictures
3D Computer Graphics: The Horse in Motion
The Photographer: A Gentleman’s Honor
In 1874, while still living in the San Francisco Bay Area, Muybridge found a letter that had been sent to his wife, a letter revealing that she had a lover, a certain Major Harry Larkyns. On October 17, 1874, he sought out Larkyns, saying to him, “Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here is the answer to the letter you sent my wife.” Muybridge then killed the Major with a gunshot. He was put on trial for murder, but was acquitted by the jury with a verdict of “justifiable homicide.”
An interesting aspect of Muybridge’s defense was a plea of insanity due to the head injury Muybridge had sustained years earlier in his stagecoach accident. His friends testified in court that the accident had dramatically changed Muybridge’s personality from genial and pleasant, to unstable and erratic. Although the jury dismissed the insanity plea, it is not unlikely that Muybridge did experience some emotional changes due the earlier head injury. This episode in Muybridge’s life was the subject of The Photographer, a well-known 1982 opera by Philip Glass, with words that were drawn from the trial and from Muybridge’s own letters to his wife.
Philip Glass: The Photographer/A Gentleman’s Honor
Robert Rauschenberg: Re-Conceived 20th Century Art
Robert Rauschenberg: A 20th Century Art Icon
Robert Rauschenberg, the prolific American artist who over and over again reshaped art in the 20th century, died Monday night at the age of 82. A painter, photographer, printmaker, choreographer, onstage performer, set designer and, during his later years, even a composer, Mr. Rauschenberg defied the traditional idea that an artist had to stick with one particular medium or style.
Rauschenberg pushed, prodded and sometimes re-conceived all of the mediums in which he worked. Building upon the legacies of Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell and others, he helped obscure the lines between painting and sculpture, painting and photography, photography and printmaking, sculpture and photography, sculpture and dance, sculpture and technology, technology and performance art.
He initially attended the Kansas City Art Institute, then traveled to Paris and enrolled at the Académie Julian, where he met Susan Weil, a young painter from New York. Soon thereafter, Ms. Weil entered the historic, experimental Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina. Having read about and come to admire the Austrian immigrant Josef Albers, who at that time was the head of fine arts at Black Mountain, Mr. Rauschenberg saved enough money to join Ms. Weil there. For a while, Rauschenberg moved between New York and North Carolina, where he studied at both the Art Students League and at Black Mountain College.
Black Mountain’s Josef Albers was famously known to be a disciplinarian and strict modernist who was shocked by his new student, and he later disavowed ever even knowing Mr. Rauschenberg. On the other hand, in retrospect Albers was recalled by Mr. Rauschenberg as both “a beautiful teacher and an impossible person.” “He wasn’t easy to talk to, and I found his criticism so excruciating and so devastating that I never asked for it,” Mr. Rauschenberg added. “Years later, though, I’m still learning what he taught me.”
Rauschenberg’s Controversial “Erased de Kooning Drawing”
Robert Rauschenberg’s controversial Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953), is about minimizing the subject, indicating that the removal of one subject can allow for the appearance of another. The things that go undiscussed in conversation are in some way equivalent to those that are talked about.
The Erased de Kooning Drawing symbolised what was iconic about much of what Rauschenberg did in his early days, it was iconic and iconoclastic at the same time, although William de Kooning was not the icon the young Turk wanted to smash. His iconoclasm took a more genteel and personal approach. As he explained in an interview: “I erased the de Kooning not out of any negative response.” Rauschenberg had been doing the same thing with his own drawings, but there was not much tension in that; it didn’t push out into the world. He had a fascination with William de Kooning, photographing his studio in 1952. Another key factor was that “de Kooning was the most important artist of the day.”
The inception of the project has been well-documented. Rauschenberg went over to the master’s studio and said that he’d like to erase one of de Kooning’s drawings as an act of art. De Kooning, apparently intrigued, had three groups of drawings. The first was comprised of drawings with which he was not satisfied, but that wouldn’t work. The next group was of drawings that he liked, but which were all in pencil, too easy to erase. If de Kooning was going to participate in this neo-Dada performance, he would play his part. He looked in his third group and found a multi-media work on paper that would be quite difficult to eradicate (the media of the Erased de Kooning Drawing included “traces of ink and crayon on paper“). Apparently, it took Rauschenberg one month to get the sheet relatively clear of marks. No photograph exists of the work that Rauschenberg erased; however, there is a photograph of the relatively simple sketch of it on the reverse of his work.
The Erased de Kooning Drawing
Rauschenberg on The Erased de Kooning Drawing
Tribute to Robert Rauschenberg: A Music Video Slideshow
Music by Philip Glass: Mishima
Interested viewers might want to read a New York Times op-ed piece written as a memorial to Robert Rauschenberg by the musician and visual-artist David Byrne, which can be accessed here.
Annie Leibowitz was born in Westbury, Connecticut, one of the six children born to Sam, an Air Force lieutenant, and Marilyn Leibovitz, a modern dance instructor. In 1967, Leibovitz enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she developed a love for photography. After living briefly on an Israeli kibbutz, in 1970 Leibovitz returned to the United States in and applied for a job with the start-up rock music magazine The Rolling Stone. Impressed with Leibovitz’s portfolio, Editor Jann Wenner offered her a job as a staff photographer. Within two years, the 23-year-old Leibovitz was promoted to Chief Photographer, a position that she held for the next 10 years. Her work with the magazine gave her the opportunity to accompany the Rolling Stones band on their 1975 international tour. While with The Rolling Stone, Leibovitz developed her trademark technique, which involved the use of bold primary colors and surprising poses. Wenner has credited her with making many of The Rolling Stone’s covers collector’s items, most notably an issue that featured a nude John Lennon curled around his fully clothed wife, Yoko Ono. Taken on December 8, 1980, Leibovitz’s photo of the former Beatle was shot just hours before his death.
In 1983, Leibovitz left The Rolling Stone and began working for the entertainment magazine Vanity Fair. With a wider array of subjects, Leibovitz’s photographs for Vanity Fair ranged from presidents to literary icons to teen heartthrobs. A number of Vanity Fair covers have featured Leibovitz’s stunning and often controversial portraits of celebrities. Demi Moore (very pregnant and very nude) and Whoopi Goldberg (half-submerged in a bathtub of milk) are among the most remembered actresses to grace the cover in recent years. Known for her ability to make her sitters become physically involved in her work, one of Leibovitz’s most famous portraits is of the late artist Keith Haring, who painted himself like one of his canvases for the photo.
In 1991, Leibovitz’s collection of over 200 color and black-and-white photographs was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Later that year, a book was published to accompany the show, entitled Photographs: Annie Leibovitz 1970-1990. In 1996, Leibovitz was chosen to be the official photographer for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. A compilation of her black-and-white portraits of American athletes, including Carl Lewis and Michael Johnson, was published in the book Olympic Portraits (1991). Widely considered one of America’s best portrait photographers, Leibovitz also published the book Women (1999), which was accompanied by an essay that was written by her companion, the acclaimed late novelist Susan Sontag. With its title subject matter, Leibovitz presented an array of female images from Supreme Court Justices to Las Vegas showgirls, to coal miners and farmers. Currently, many of her original prints are housed in various galleries throughout the United States.
I. Background Music: The Sounds of Philip Glass
Photography by Annie Leibovitz: Phillip Glass
II. Background Music: Restless Farewell by Bob Dylan