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In her book River of Shadows, Rebecca Solnit positions pioneering photographer Eadward Muybridge at the center of the beginning of "the annihilation of time and space." Muybridge invented the sequencing of images to demonstrate physical motion. He was funded in this endeavor by Leland Stanford, who made his fortunes helping tie America together with railroads. Movies and rapid transit erased localities and the primacy of memory - suddenly people lived in timezones, visited far flung friends and witnessed reenacted events on flat screens.

This piece explores that notion of annihilation, proposing that time and space are not eliminated for the modern audience, but rather that Muybridge's inventions are now the basis for a overstuffing of time and space; both physical and virtual.

The user is presented with a single image of an animated man riding a horse. This is Muybridge's primary text, where he got his start tracking galloping reality, bridging his animal and human photo studies. The image starts off a small size, seeming manageable and cute, almost like a cameo. Beneath that, a line of text in an old tyme font: "BREED CHILDREN OF MUYBRIDGE" with instructions to click and drag.

Children of Muybridge - we are the children of Muybridge, media addled and wrestling with our father's legacy. And the children of Muybridge are also these moving images, which refract, reproduce, mutate and expand to fill space as the user engages the world.

In the background throughout, the music is a Matmos piece "Sun On 5 At 152" from their album The West. Here the San Francisco-based duo has made electronic layers of acoustic pieces; it's not clear what is organic or technological. The looping, building, electro-organic nature of the song suits the fractal Muybridge content; in play-testing, users thought they might have been driving samples. The album has a Western theme, with guitars and lazy beats; echoing the circumstances Muybridge lived in, just before his inventions remade California and the world. Their elegant build to cacaphony suits the better angels of this project.

A click launches the parent into motion, breeding and expanding as its children multiply beneath the mouse. There's a narrative arc, a meditation on evolution and technology that unfolds as the user fills the screen. From Muybridge's prototypical horse, we move to two men hammering at an anvil. Brief text rises onscreen: "creation, exploration: / Pollution or Landscape? / let's working" - so much industry resulted from Muybridge's inventions. The annihilation of time and space that Solnit observes has had a massive toll in pollution, creating new landscapes of detritus, both physical and digital. Without so much observance of the costs, we proceed, continuing to invent, evolve and produce.

Next we see a man alone punching into space, and these words: "our system prescribes symmetry / reach balance for one / reproduction". The children of Muybridge need parents; in the excitement and exertion of industry, love may be lost, and without that, there is no reproduction. Through media and proximity promotion, Muybridge demands and facilitates pairing for reproduction. The system fights the loner, prescribing partnership for its own survival.

Then a scene of fisticuffs between two men: "wait, come closer: / this profusion regenerates / inescapable stimulation". So as we are drawn closer together, conflict is not diminished, rather we can not help but fight, make wars, put the legacy of Muybridge to the task of exciting some of the worst human impulses. And the images continue their profusion; increasing quantity and the sense of ambient activity.

Next an animal appears: a pig. And beneath it, text: "pig shits / after he hungers / bacon zen". The further through the cycle we run, the more the costs of reproduction and excitation become apparent; we shit what we eat and we're surrounded by billboards, concrete, wrappers, noise and light pollution. Still sense pleasures (exemplified by bacon) do give us some calm amidst all of this. Basking in the immense gratification we receive from media, we continue unafraid perpetuating Muybridge's reproduction.

Finally the dancer appears; the only woman we've seen so far, light on her feet, dancing. She could be the highest aspiration for the children of Muybridge - pointing our bows and arrows straight towards the arts, we could make something exemplifying truth and beauty for just a moment. "acknowledge your feet / not bad to watch / better to feel" reads the text - maybe we've forgotten our bodies as instruments of pleasure. There's so much emphasis on the eyes and what they can consume from flat space; by appreciating gesture and physical form we could perhaps elevate our condition amidst the profusion of eye candy.

The horse returns; the image, this motion, the primal advent of Hollywood and Silicon Valley is inescapable in a narrative of media technology progress. The text acknowledges this much: "she rides faster / mounted / so shall we". The graceful art practitioner we saw before has taken up a mount; media technology helps us make our work. And maybe that's faster, and so we will all be caught up in this speed, the speed of riding Muybridge.

This is a looping moment; the user is re-engaged with the previous cycle. But the interaction has changed visibly by now - where a single click before would yield two or three images, it now creates six, seven or eight. With increased awareness, the rippled effects of media making on an interconnected world become apparent. Cycles involving violence, pollution, destruction, stimulation, art are timeless. In this loop, there is no immediate exit except overload: playing the stimulation until your system can no longer handle it.

by Justin Hall and Aaron Meyers
Submitted to Erik Loyer for completion of CTIN541a
6 December 2004