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The Brooklyn Museum has announced the opening of Matthew Buckingham's The Spirit and the Letter at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at The Brooklyn Museum. On view for the first time in New York, Buckingham's installation explores the legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft, the eighteenth-century writer and philosopher, and describes a space between intent and action, privacy and the state, where a radical rethinking of identity took place over 200 years ago.

The Spirit and the Letter places the viewer in a space that evokes inversion: a simple chandelier, glowing dimly, protrudes upward from the floor, and an upside down mirror hangs on the wall. A video image, projected onto a large wall, shows a room where the same chandelier can be seen in its "correct" orientation, hanging from the ceiling. In this room, a woman in 18th century dress paces across the floor. She exits but then after a moment reappears standing on the ceiling, disobeying gravity as she moves through the image, resembling a ghost of sorts. Portraying Mary Wollstonecraft, this actor delivers a erratic but impassioned exposition of Wollstonecraft's ideas, edited from Wollstonecraft's books, letters, memoirs and tracts, including A Vindication of the Rights of Women.

Buckingham uses the aesthetic qualities of video to heighten the durational aspect of the actor's monologue, invoking the medium's associations with simultaneity (live events), and with surveillance. The image in the video projection and the space in which the viewer experiences the work foreground Wollstonecraft's questioning of the connection between domestic space, architecture and property, as well as gender and identity. A subtle proposition is made whereby the viewer is implicitly invited to link past moments of social change, rather than think of them as isolated or thwarted moments of resistance.

Accompanying Buckingham's installation at The Brooklyn Museum is a small exhibition of ephemera and books documenting Wollstonecraft's life and work, focusing on her familial, social, and intellectual circles. This biographical display is curated from objects loaned by the New York Public Library.

Matthew Buckingham: The Spirit and the Letter was organized by Catherine Morris, Curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum. This exhibition is made possible by the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation.

The Spirit and the Letter was originally co-commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and Camden Arts Centre in association with the Des Moines Art Center, Dundee Contemporary Art, FRAC Bourgogne, and the Henry Art Gallery with support from the Arts Council of England.

For more information:

upcoming at Murray Guy:

15 September - 29 October 2011
opening Thurs, 15 September, 6 - 8pm

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