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Matthew Buckingham Exhibition: Play the Story

17 April 2007

Dr Mark Godfrey (UCL Slade School of Fine Art) is curator of a new exhibition by film and video artist Matthew Buckingham at the Camden Arts Centre from 27 April–1 July 2007, following the artist’s residency at the UCL Slade School of Fine Art.

In connection with the show, Tate Modern is hosting a screening of three of Matthew Buckingham’s earlier films on 20 April 2007 at 7pm. The films will be followed by a discussion between the artist, Mark Godfrey and Tate curator Stuart Comer.

Matthew Buckingham is considered to be one of today’s most significant critical artists. His acclaimed work mainly utilises film as a commentary on how we perceive the world around us, often focusing on a notable character. The exhibition will feature three new video installations as well as a site-specific participative installation.

Mark Godfrey said: “Buckingham has long been praised for the formal elegance of his films and his thoughtful approach to their installations. He investigates history and its representation, always concerned with addressing present day realities such as the impact of globalisation and colonialism.”

matthew buckingham

The new video installation ‘The Spirit and the Letter’ concerns the writer and social reformer Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797), best known for her books on education and on the inequality between the rights of men and women. Wollstonecraft’s turbulent life is often read more closely than her writing and her status has been contested by generations of feminist thinkers. Buckingham’s video will present her as a kind of ghost whose legacy remains unsettled.

A half-day symposium about the legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft will take place from 2-5pm on 28 April 2007 at the centre, featuring papers by several Wollstonecraft scholars. Admission is free, but booking via the centre is recommended.

’Everything I Need’ follows the psychologist and radical feminist Charlotte Wolff (1897-1986) who trained as a doctor in Berlin, and was part of a circle of intellectuals that included Walter Benjamin. She escaped Nazi Germany in 1933 and during her exile in Paris and London, wrote some of the first books about same-sex relationships. She was embraced as a figurehead in the 1970s by the lesbian movement in Berlin, where she returned in 1978 to present aspects of her research. The video was shot on a retired plane of the sort that made trans-European flights in the 1970s. As images of its plush interior unfold, a text is presented drawing viewers to imagine Wolff¹s thoughts during her journey back to Berlin.

The artist’s third new piece, ‘False Future’ concerns Louis Aimée Augustin Le Prince (1842–1890). Le Prince invented a camera which could record moving pictures some years before the Lumières, but having made some very short films in New York and Leeds, he mysteriously disappeared during a train journey from Dijon to Paris. Matthew Buckingham shot his film at the exact location in Leeds where Le Prince filmed in the late 1880s. The film is accompanied by a textual component which discusses Le Prince's achievements, and the desires for moving images in the late 19th century.

In the installation ‘Specularia’, Buckingham invites visitors to engage with the architecture of Camden Arts Centre, connecting the very fabric of the building to wider historical events. This work is a result of collaboration with students from the UCL Slade School of Fine Art.

Together, these four works indicate Buckingham’s diverse interests, and his varied approach to installation. One thread running through the works is his concern with the political legacy of historical figures associated with feminism; another is his investigation of the history of video and film.

‘Matthew Buckingham: Play the Story’ is accompanied by a four-part publication. Three new artist books accompany the three new projected works featuring essays by Cora Kaplan on Mary Wollstonecraft; Tom Gunning on Louis Le Prince; and Darcy Buerkle on Charlotte Wolff. A fourth book includes an interview between Dr Godfrey and Matthew Buckingham on the new works in the exhibition, and an essay by Sara Krajewski on Matthew Buckingham’s previous work.

The exhibition will go on tour to FRAC Bourgogne, Dijon, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle and Des Moines Art Center, Iowa.

To find out more, use the links at the bottom of this article

Image: 'The Spirit and the Letter', Matthew Buckingham, 2007, continuous video projection with sound. (Credits: Mary Wollstonecraft: Kate Miles; photography: Romain Forquy, courtesy of Film and Video Umbrella)