Shadows And Light (Transformations Series on Geopolitics Book 21)


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The city may have been a boomtown at the end of the world, but it was an insanely rich one, and among the first things new princes wish to buy is Culture. Passing through Texas on his way back East, he was thrown from a stagecoach when the team of half-tamed Mustangs suddenly bolted off the road. Muybridge suffered a frontal lobe injury that made him irritable and erratic, but that also seems to have released some previously hidden creativity, unlidded some magic eye, because after wandering around Europe and the eastern states during the Civil War years, he returned to San Francisco and began to take some amazing landscapes, social documentaries, and proto-cinematic motion studies.

Muybridge led a mule train bearing his tripods, portable darkrooms and huge glass plate negatives through dangerous passes and up rocky trails to get shots that often look menacing next to the photographs and paintings being made by his friends and contemporaries - like Alfred Eisenstadt - working in the same landscape, and in whose work the vertiginous cliffs and scantly-treed ledges of Yosemite often appear horizontally stabilized by lush foreground meadows and bathed in divinely serene light appropriate to the God-given Eden that most Americans wanted the west to be.

By accounts she was a fast, flirty, excitable young woman enamored of theater, nightlife and expensive clothes. While Muybridge perched on the some contemplative precipice in Yosemite or followed U. Army campaigns against the restive Modoc, Flora cuckolded him, got herself knocked up by a sponging, rascally swell. Muybridge shot this man through the heart at a poker table.

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Muybridge was acquitted of murder. He had a good lawyer who anchored an insanity defense around the fact that Muybridge was on a few occasions diffident about payment for his photographic services. To a jury in San Francisco, a city built on the Gold Rush, such diffidence seemed proof of insanity. And their Not Guilty verdict was to them confirmed when at the reading Muybridge suffered a spectacular seizure in the courtroom; he was prostrate for a while, but eventually rose and walked outside, to be greeted by a cheering crowd.

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After the trial Muybridge left Flora. He went to photograph ruined, vine-choked Baroque churches in the jungles of Guatemala. She dramatically wasted away, died, and was committed to a mass grave of paupers. Her son was sent to an orphanage; he grew up to be a ranch hand with a strong resemblance to Muybridge. In the s, her scrapbook turned up in a junk store. The images from this series that Solnit includes are so spooky, primal scenes of the westward expansion.

Muybridge was one of those rare artists who could discern and dramatize essential forces, currents in the air, history-in-the-making, the noise of time. One shot shows a line of track running level and smooth between two halves of a dynamited rock formation. The massive rock halves dominate the image, are characteristically looming and formidable. What an audacious feat this is, Muybridge reminds us, to impose our industrial will, our straight-and-smooth, on such daunting, ancient natural forces.

The image communicates awe for the land and for the organized, unstoppable strength of its exploiter.

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Captain Ahab, Shakespearian symbol of all the subduers of American nature, soliloquizes from the stern of his whale ship: The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Another striking shot is of a Shoshone family Muybridge photographed along the Central Pacific spearhead in Utah. Defiant, independent gestures against an background being reamde by and for whites. Considered up close, they are proud and fine; in the context of the background, which is basically a rail yard, they look out of place, homeless, utterly dispossessed and slightly ridiculous.

Theft of land and theft of meaning in a single image. General William T. Army would drive across Western Europe into Nazi Germany after the same fashion, though with massive numbers of trucks, jeeps and tanks named after Sherman augmenting rail networks and providing troops with personal mobility.


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Sherman, who had been a banker in s San Francisco, knew that rail companies like the one owned by Stanford, subsidized and protected by the government, would win the west without the massive levee of troops that would signal war to the war-weary American voter. Much fuss has been made over the idea of the frontier, as though it were a line advancing east to west, but the West was settled piece meal, and Indians fled in many directions to escape the tightening noose of the railroad lines and towns. View all 9 comments.

Mar 05, Geoff rated it it was amazing Recommended to Geoff by: Eric. I left the theater after my second viewing of The Master last night with Muybridge on my mind. There are many reasons for this. It is the next advance in the medium that Eadweard Muybridge helped to inspire over years ago.

This process began in the middle of the 19th century by taking a picture of a horse. Muybridge once took a photo of himself from around the same vantage point, gazing out across the Golden Gate, before the bridge was built. The light in that photograph was hallucinatory as well, as I suppose light considered as an object always is; the bay became a luminescent white plain and the mountains dark, angular, high-contrast forms in the distance. Muybridge himself is situated near the middle of the frame, his back turned to the camera, but is almost lost among the bramble and stone- an observing object fused with the landscape.

It is, indeed, on this fictive basis that it dominates the world. So argues Solnit in her long, digressive essay on Muybridge. If modernism in art is meant to show and engage a particular alienation that human beings experience in relation to the industrialized world, then a kind of modernism certainly arose in fascinating ways in California during the middle of the 19th century. Modernism is also economics, labor, technology, new ways of waging war, architecture, the altered cityscape, the idea of nature as something separate from mankind.

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While the high art of Europe was transmuting the classical world into new languages, America was creating its own style of modernism, one that displayed itself not on museum walls but on the very land, one that created the first corporations and millionaires, that gridded the continent with railroad tracks and consumed forests and bison and native populations as if they were fuel for a monstrous smelting furnace. Technological modernism is the real legacy of the Wild West; the cowboy stories and Indian legends and vast unsettled Edens are the mythology, the preferred remembrance, the whitewashed history that only exists in images and narratives- films.

New dominant forms of technological representation and fiction are the true children of California. Leland Stanford made his fortune in ruthless competition building the first transcontinental railroad. He also funded the motion studies of Eadweard Muybridge. At the very beginning of American modernism, which is also to say in the very last days of the old world and the dying old modes of life, were the dual forces of money and industry, remaking the land, remaking time and space and our experiences relative to them.

The new world takes root and is born in the senses, in perception. The railroad and the telegraph worked to annihilate space and time and shrink the size of the Earth by increasing the speed of travel, commerce, communication. In doing so, they also began delocalizing experience, making the landscape uniform, eliminating particularities of place that were for centuries determined by the limited capabilities of the transit of resources and information.

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These changes in commerce led inevitably to another, more profound and broad change in Time. Time had to be made uniform between greatly separated places to sync up the new forms of trade. Before the railroad and the telegraph and the factory, it was seasons and the amount of daylight, the ringing of church bells, that determined the way time was comprehended.

It wasn't until a person in Philadelphia could communicate instantly with a person in California that it became necessary to synchronize clocks.


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It wasn't until a train load of timber coming from the Midwest had to be met at a station in New York City at a specific hour that people had to standardize time. A product of the same forward thrust in technological innovation, it stands somewhere indistinct between a science, an art, and a commodity. A photograph is necessarily a lie, but it is a more accurate reproduction of a scene than what our memories can supply.

Photographs divide and chop up and scatter time, make time portable, allow the dead to live, allow time to stand still, allow a single event to be revisited endlessly. A photograph determines facts while muddling them, ennobles as well as degrades the bodies that are its subject, replaces and supplants what it represents.

The paradox of the represented image is that the more ever present and vivid it becomes, the less the source of the representation seems to matter or even exist outside of its depiction, and the image comes to speak of a reality with more force than the reality the image contains. Thus Solnit's idea that in our modern age we are more than ever those people raised in Plato's cave, confusing shadows with the world.

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Straddling the pre- and post-technologically representational worlds is Muybridge and his team of scientist-artists. From early on in his career Muybridge was interested in the photographic medium as a way of capturing the ephemeral, and even his mammoth-plate landscapes of Yosemite, considered among the finest ever produced, would often focus on such transient things as water in various states of motion, the mutability of clouds, the debris of landslides, the slow migration of glaciers.

Even then it was as if he sensed that the photograph could grasp at something beyond the limits of our perceptions. When he began reassembling those images into sequences and animating them with his zoopraxiscopes and magic lantern slides he was taking that science into the realms of art. View 2 comments.

Shadows And Light (Transformations Series on Geopolitics Book 21) Shadows And Light (Transformations Series on Geopolitics Book 21)
Shadows And Light (Transformations Series on Geopolitics Book 21) Shadows And Light (Transformations Series on Geopolitics Book 21)
Shadows And Light (Transformations Series on Geopolitics Book 21) Shadows And Light (Transformations Series on Geopolitics Book 21)
Shadows And Light (Transformations Series on Geopolitics Book 21) Shadows And Light (Transformations Series on Geopolitics Book 21)
Shadows And Light (Transformations Series on Geopolitics Book 21) Shadows And Light (Transformations Series on Geopolitics Book 21)

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