At Towner: Twixt Two Worlds

Spirit Photograph. Image courtesy Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & HoveA single-room exhibition at Towner that started life at the Whitechapel, Twixt Two Worlds  takes as its starting point the transition between still image photography and the birth of the moving image.  Beyond that it also looks at imagery which finds its meaning in techniques such as double exposure and superimposition, or whose work is meant to reveal other dimensions or worlds. For such a small show it crams a lot in and what is there is very well done indeed.  I like that to reveal the ‘spirit’ photographs (including the remarkably stark ‘Ada’, and the one pictured above) you must lift a black cloth.  I don’t care if it’s true that this for conservation or not, it works.  The same setting-leading-to-impact works when you click the light for the glass plates towards the end and the dark table becomes a riot of colour. There are some lovely examples of old magic lanterns (I had to try to explain how this worked to my six year old son, all the while the 1890 guide was behind glass, out of reach) and old cine cameras.  There is also a digitised magic lantern show.  Again, what surprised here was how much movement and colour there was.  Vintage movie reels (two small screens, and a giant, scratchy projection of a 1901 comedy feature) sit alongside genuine vintage prints of movement (Eadward Muybridge’s movement series) and their modern recreations.  More contemporary takes come from Jane and Louise Wilson.  It all sits together very well. Obviously, limitations of space mean that we can’t go full-on deep but what is here is remarkable and has been very intelligently put together.  Yet more proof that contemporary art thinking can be both accessible and compelling. Below is a little video from the curator who obviously talks more sense than me…


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