Gavin MacDonald:TFO-MA6-049

In an art school context like ours, Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904) is best known for his contribution to the prehistory of the moving image: his chronophotography, like that of his contemporary Eadweard Muybridge, revealed the hitherto unseen details of the locomotive movement of human and animal bodies. But alongside this he was also a pioneer of the “graphic method” in physiology, inventing machines to translate the inner movements and rhythms of our bodies into linear traces: the heartbeat monitor on your smartphone is a descendant of his devices. Marey had “a passion for the trace”, as François Dagognet had it in the subtitle of his 1992 monograph, fixing unseen movements external and internal in a way that would have profound effects on visualisation in both science and culture. This slide can be seen as speaking to his obsessions: as all slides are, it’s one stage in a series of transfers from trace to matter; its subject is a moment where Marey’s wrist flicked as it he executed his signature in white on black, his own trace.

Dr Gavin MacDonald
Senior Lecturer
Film and Media Studies
Manchester School of Art

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