In the 1870s, photographer Eadweard Muybridge set out to resolve a much-debated question amongst horseracing aficionados: whether, at any point during a horse’s gait, all four hooves were off the ground at the same time. To answer the question Muybridge designed a camera that could capture the successive images of a horse’s gait.
The results were groundbreaking, not only because they showed all four hooves clearly off the ground at any given point but never before had human eyes seen the image of an animal in motion so distinctly.
Muybridge brought his photographs together to create a primitive motion picture that recreated the movement.
It is difficult today, more than 130 years later, to appreciate the camera’s ability to capture a moving object and freeze it in time, but an exhibit of New York native Adad Hannah’s work, currently underway at Concordia, revitalizes this power by setting the camera in motion.
Hannah’s exhibit is part of the10th annual Mois de la Photo currently underway around the city. There are more than 30 exhibitions at galleries and public spaces downtown, the Maison de la Culture, on the Plateau and in Saint-Henri.
The exhibitions are united under the theme Replaying Narrative, and, like so much of contemporary art, force the viewer to question the boundaries of the art form.
Entitled Recast and Reshoot, the series of video installations features people standing as motionless as possible. Part of Hannah’s inspiration for these works comes from early photography. “For the first photographs, people had to stand still for five, ten minutes – sometimes an hour,” said Hannah in a phone interview last week.
In his most striking piece, Burghers of Seoul, Hannah puts the camera in motion, rotating it around Rodin’s Burghers of Calais – a sculpture originally located in France commemorating the hundred years war – on one screen, and on another screen, a group of Korean motorcycle couriers who have assumed the position of the figures in the statue.
“They were the people in Korea that were physically most like the Calais. I saw them in some ways as the real heroes of the city [Seoul]. You would see around five of them at every stop light,” said Hannah, a PhD candidate at Concordia.
Burghers of Seoul, as Hannah has captured it, retains both Rodin’s initial desire to force viewers to circumnavigate around the figures depicted, and revitalizes the politics of the original sculpture by creating a contemporary analogue in the Korean couriers bodies.
This is not the first piece where Hannah has experimented with the idea of a moving still image.
The Stills series showed actors holding poses on film in a museum setting. One of the pieces from that series, Age of Bronze, is on display at the Concordia gallery as well.
It also shows a female curator staring intently at a sculpture of a male nude, with a museum security guard in the background. The relationships of power between the three objects seems obvious at first – the curator looking in disdain at the sculpture in an inversion of the traditional gaze – but the overall somehow becomes much more complex as the models hold their poses on film.
Adad Hannah’s work is on display at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery in the JW Connell Building until Oct. 6. For more information on Mois de la Photo visit www.moisdelaphoto.com. All exhibitions and activities are free of charge and run until Oct. 21.