Sequences Catalogue Introduction

Space and Time as revealed by Chronophotography

The true gauge of Longitude, the great conceptual circles that loop around the earth converging at the poles, and fully seventy miles apart at the equator, was accurately measured in 1773 by William Harrison's chronograph, H5. With this tool it was now possible to accurately find ones position anywhere on the globe. The precise measurement of time was put to the task of determining spatial positioning. Testing of H5, an incredibly accurate watch, was to take place at Greenwich, followed by extensive sea trials around Britain.

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich became the site of the prime meridian of longitude, the position from which the worlds clock begins and ends each day. Each twenty-four hour revolution of the globe, turning 15 degrees an hour, like some huge Newtonian cogwheel in a stellar timepiece. As the prime meridian circumvents the globe from pole to pole it randomly dissects geographical features and settlements, unifying them in time, if not in space. The photographer Richard Heeps charted the course of this arc through Cambrigeshire as part of a year of the artist project 36 minutes in Cambridgeshire in 2002. His work, images of seemingly random, desolate landscapes are situated in spatial relation to one and other, points on a section of this arc. One City that is brushed by the touch of this curve is Peterborough.

The photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson, who died this year, coined the phrase 'decisive moment'. He was referring to the 1/30th of a second during which all the elements of his composition came together in perfect alignment, the point at which he released his cameras shutter and captured an instant in time. Astrophysics has taught that telescopes pointed at the far reaches of space reveal to us a universe in its infancy. The light from far away stars takes millions of light years to reach us and in so doing reveals a reality that no longer exists. Chronophotography present to us a series of realities, revealed over time, and rather than freezing a particular moment, and in contrast to single camera photography, can be said to capture eternity.

In 2004 the centenary of both Etienne Jules Marey and Edweard Murbridges death the exhibition Sequences, produced by peterborough digital arts, brings together the work of a group of artists who use chronophotography either as their tool or as the starting point for their investigation. With chronophotography there is no one moment of absolute clarity or truth, there is no single person perspective point, instead we are presented with a series of images, recorded over time, that represent myriad spatial possibilities. Single person perspective falls away to reveal a reality that offers up the possibility of different viewpoints, positions, and opinions. The potential for pluralism is represented through visual art.

Giles Askham, Curator, peterborough digital arts, October 2004