A spellbinding work of poetry, Muybridge's Horse is something of an epic poem, taking in it's scope the whole of Eadweard Muybridge's life and work.
It is a first publication for poet Rob Winger and although it falters in a few places, it's good (and at times excellent) sections more than make up for it.
In form, it certainly owes a lot to Michael Ondaatje's majestic The Collected Work's of Billy The Kid, but in this case, Winger certainly makes the form his own. He draws on all sorts of sources about Muybridge's work and life, as well as from further afield (there is a good little quote from Diane Arbus that every photogrpaher would do well to remember: "The more specific you are, the more general it will be")
the split second in walking when both of your feet are airborne
the distance between a target and the knowledge of a gunshot
water in your throat
the space of decline when a masseuse’s finger slips from a knotted muscle
the time between balance and impact with the earth
my fingers submerged in water, in a dive
the moment, in a train lavatory, when a sideways sway has thrown a spray of urine
away from the bowl’s mouth
any sporting ball suspended in the air
the heat of mouths before lips contact
the time between an engine and the sound of it
the stretching of a knuckle before it cracks
a drill changing its tonality as it contacts a sheet of maple
whole snowflakes as they meet your tongue
a minute hand jumping to its next hour before the clock can chime
the stretched pressure of a guitar string before sound
the darkness that happens before any object collides with your face
the second of ease when the piano you are pushing has built up enough force to glide
any form of jumping
a bird in flight
reading the Plaza of Antigua
All across the frame, people have refused capture.Their bodies, brief streaks of light across the market’s noise.Bodies arriving at the paper’s surface from the hills as though they’d dropped from the background - clothing filling the frame with contrast.
Eadweard uses their blurs.Some have stood, perhaps, for hours, under a certain shadow, and (seeing Eadweard place the wet plate into the camera’s box) have jumped from permanence.Their bodies are ghosts, transparent, building’s bones seeping through grey skeletons, half-exposed on glass.
This curve of colour is a woman, arguing over the price of beans.This round whirlwind of white light, a boy spinning in place.This silver banner, a man who’s just exited the frame to walk ten miles back to his village, up the side of the volcano, toward sky.Two specific legs support a burst of light, where a figure has bent to the ground in a perfect semicircle, painting the foreground with waves.The dance of a young woman in a white dress paints a halo behind a fixed, staring farmer.Angelus novus.
Eadweard’s finger must’ve traced the gradual background curve of Volcano Agua against the air before framing it in the dry photograph’s top half.He must have positioned the Palace of the Captains General intentionally, so its highest corner just grazes the slope in the background, a meeting of territories.Volcanic throat against stone’s collarbone.
Like Eadweard, I’m attempting to fix blurs, to translate motion into language.Like Eadweard, I want permanence, want things named.I lean into the paper’s grain, watching, smell its dust lifting from the book, sunlight falling through the window into the centennial clouds of moving bodies there.This image, traveling the entire North American mainland, over a hundred years of distance, to find me here, in the particular light of a Canadian afternoon.
Frame around the image, marking possibilities. Circles of light against the nails.
In the picture, round baskets perforate the cloth geometry, balanced on heads, giant nails digging into dirt.Every stall is covered by the tilt of a square umbrella, each reflecting the sun in a white shine.The squares float like prints drifting in the development bath, edges curled from the acids’ work.Your eye can hop from one to another without dipping into the river of bodies. Or, you can circle, move from umbrella to umbrella, around the square. Slip, if you like, from the surface into liquid and lose your boundaries.
(The most important time is happening between categories.)
P.S. I like the fact that if you flick quickly through the pages you get one of Muybridge's horses galloping along in the bottom corner - a nice little bit of whimsy in the book design.