by Gaia Tedone
Inspired by the Barnes Brothers’ collection of early cinema apparatus and ephemera at the Hove Museum, the exhibition takes the technique of double exposure and the visual effect of superimposition as starting points to explore the transition between still and moving image across photography, magic lantern slides and cinema.
Whilst looking at this transition in both historical and technical terms, it also attempts to articulate a parallel trajectory, which considers the use of doubling as a suggestive vehicle to signal the apparition of another world; a world that is governed by the laws of imagination, illusion and paranormal phenomena. In the space amongst these two worlds, only separated by the cinematic screen, the tensions between science and magic, vision and insanity, life and death crucially play out.
The title of the exhibition refers to the homonymous book written by John S. Farmer in 1886 on the life and work of William Eglinton, the famous medium born in Islington, London, in 1857. Eglinton is the accomplice author of a rare group of spirit photographs on loan from the Brighton Museum collection. This selection of original prints elucidate one of the most popular uses of the technique of double exposure and superimposition in photography, subsequently translated into cinema by British mesmerist, magic lanternist and film pioneer George Albert Smith (1864-1959) through his influential motion picture experiments. Other key works in the display include: a compilation of films by Brighton School pioneers James Williamson (1856-1933), Robert W. Paul (1869-1943) and William Friese-Greene (1855-1921) assembled from the BFI, Screen Archive South East and Imperial War Museum collections; a number of early cine cameras (c.1900) and biunial magic lanterns (c.1850) used for the first ‘animated pictures’ shows that belong to the Hove Museum and the Barnes Brothers collections; a selection of magic lantern slides, dissolving views sets and digital animations from Bristol City Art Museum, Kingston Museum and Museo Nazionale del Cinema in Turin; a group of works by contemporary artists Douglas Gordon (b.1966), Saskia Olde Wolbers (b.1971), and Steven Pippin (b.1960) amongst others, from the collection of the Southampton City Art Gallery, South London Gallery and Swindon Museum.
Twixt Two Worlds is inspired by the influential personalities of John (1920-2008) and William (b. 1920) Barnes, their exhaustive approach as collectors and their unique relationship as identical twins.