Recording the Trace of Movement: Past and Present

In her current exhibition, Motion Capture Drawings, at London Gallery West (3rd February – 4th March 2012), artist Susan Morris has captured her own movements over a period of time in a motion capture studio and painstakingly converted the data via algorithms into lines, which are printed onto photographic paper. The images resemble a fragile, dense fog of movement.

Her work references Étienne-Jules Marey, born in France in 1830 and a pioneer of motion analysis through his work with chronophotography, which, unlike the sequential images of Eadweard Muybridge, used multiple exposures recorded and combined together in one photograph to analyse the trajectory of a movement. Here is a selection:

Marey’s work was a clear influence on the Futurists and other artists concerned with representing speed and motion in painting. Compare the image above, Etienne Jules Marey, Étude de l’homme, chronophotographie, 1887 with Marcel Duchamp’s iconic Nude Descending a Stair, 1912.

Beautiful as Morris’s images are, they bring to mind a tangled web of technological references to the history of motion analysis that she does not acknowledge. Capturing the trace of movement is the aim of contemporary motion capture technology, beautifully illustrated in Ghostcatching, 1999. In this digital dance piece shown below, movement data from choreographer and dancer, Bill T Jones, has been used by Bill Kaiser and Shelley Eshkar of the OpenEnded Group to create graphic lines. The data was not used ‘straight out of the tin’, but required extensive clean-up and artistic input from Kaiser and Eshkar.

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Another example of graphic black and white linear imagery inspired by Marey’s motion analysis can be seen in Norman McLaren’s Pas de Deux.

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2 Comments

  1. Susan Morris
    Posted November 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Hello – just found this… actually searching for something else

    I do acknowledge Marey – most explicitly! Reference to his work was in all the publicity material, plus we actually used a Marey image in the text/ info on the gallery wall… you sure you actually SAW the show?!

    Susan

    • Posted November 9, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      Dear Susan,
      I just carefully re-read your publicity material and acknowledge that I was mistaken in saying you hadn’t referenced Marey. I had formed this opinion after seeing you speak about the work and you did not reference him at any point in your talk. I have now amended the post.
      B

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