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Movie Magic: Eadweard Muybridge

The movies – the best among them – are magic.

We know that the movies are a lie. That movement on screen? Just a rapid fire of still images. The magic lies in the illusion; the ability for us to see  motion where there are frames, characters where they are actors, imagined worlds where there are painted film sets. Film has an extraordinary ability to transport us out of ourselves for two hours in a dark cinema.

Historians have traced an archaeology of moving images as far back as 400 years or more, but of the many stories of the founding of motion pictures, one of the most compelling is that of proto-cinema pioneer, Eadweard Muybridge in the 1880s.  Part of our year long Cinema Matters programme, in the first event of our ‘Industrial Light and Magic‘ season, we look closer at Muybridge whose photographic studies of motion were explored in American essayist Thom Andersen’s film, Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer.

To learn more about this forefather of cinema, we spoke to writer, curator and artist David Campany about Muybridge’s work. ‘We don’t know what is possible with images. We don’t know the full extent of what’s possible’, he explains. ‘But we often feel trapped by what is technically possible. But that’s why we should always value the pioneers whether they are artistic or scientific that are pushing at those edges. And Muybridge was definitely doing that.’

Listen to more from our interview with David Campany on the Barbican Film podcast.

‘Every generation discovers Muybridge for themselves – and each generation finds something different in it…’

Cinema Matters: Industrial Light and Magic continues until Saturday 11 February

Cinema Matters is part of Film in Focus, a year celebrating the power of the moving image and its influence across the arts