Refiguring Muybridge: The Animal Locomotion Nudes Then and Now
Sarah Gordon, lecturer, curator & art consultant, Washington, DC
Eadweard Muybridge has long been known as the “Father of the Motion Picture” for his 1870s serial fast action photographs of horses galloping, the predecessor to the film strip. The male and female nudes he photographed as part of the Animal Locomotion project in the 1880s are equally as groundbreaking but far less studied. This talk will discuss the Animal Locomotion nudes’ pivotal position in Muybridge’s motion studies and their role in major intellectual advances of the Victorian era, including the development of modern art, advances in science and medicine, and the emergence of evolutionary theory. We will then look closely at contemporary responses to the Animal Locomotion nudes. While 1960s conceptual artists tended to incorporate the seriality and gridded nature of Muybridge’s pictures into their work, other recent painters and lens-based artists have investigated issues of gender, power, and pleasure, which are equally prominent in the Muybridge nudes. Through this investigation, we will begin to understand Muybridge not only as the father of film, but also as the instigator of a very particular mode of viewing the human body.
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