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Midway Projections

Centering around a persona named Madame Blueberry, the installation space is a re-creation of the Midway from the 1901 Buffalo Pan American Exposition. Madame Blueberry is a turn-of-the-20th-century Magic Lantern projectionist who creates what I call "home spaces" each time she sets up her projection device and puts on a show. Using electronic images, a turn-of-the-century lightbulb, and projection media, she asserts a new notion home.

Just as the Magic Lantern projectionist was a roving performer, the Projectionista sets up her home each time she turns on her device to form this moment with you. Through her itinerancy, Madame Blueberry draws attention to the way we integrate technology into our 21st century lives.

Each person who visits the installation and peeps into the cart has their face placed on a figure in a 1901 Midway crowd. The last several people who have visited the room still remain on the other faces in the group. I want to re-invigorate the aura of that moment of energy and electricity which happened near the site of the Albright Knox grounds—the Museum building itself is a living artifact of the Exposition.

Curatorial Commentary by Holly E. Hughes, Associate Curator, Albright-Knox Art Gallery:

In her multimedia, experiential installations, Victoria Bradbury creates characters who articulate the history of the American woman, predominantly her driving spirit to establish a sense of place and cultivate intellectual curiosity. For Midway Projects, 2010, the character Madame Blueberry serves as the projectionist for a turn-of-the-century magic lantern-a forerunner of the slide projector and, more recently, PowerPoint software. Bradbury envisions the magic lantern, which dates back to the middle of the seventeenth century, as the earliest indication of our increasingly global lifestyles. Featuring the mobility of today’s laptop and eventually becoming an “on the road” educational forum, the magic lantern would be taken from place to place by a projectionist, who would supply entertainment to audiences at fairs and festivals for a small fee.

Such a device would have been featured at The Pan-American Exposition of 1901, which was held in Buffalo and brought many new amenities, including electricity, to the nearly eight million people who fielded their way through the fair during its six-month run. Complete with a midway, buildings dedicated to worldly topics such as art and music, and even an Electric Tower that was illuminated nightly, this major event promised to present the world to its audiences. Women played a large role in the Exposition and were integral to its success, both as visitors and as exhibition organizers. Even the poster for the event depicts a woman in billowing attire as “The Spirit of Niagara.”

The Albright-Knox serves as the perfect venue for Bradbury’s historically animated work: The Gallery’s original building, intended to serve first as the fine arts pavilion of the Pan-American Exposition, was not finished in time to serve this purpose and instead opened to the public in 1905. Upon entering the museum space, visitors are invited to peer into Madame Blueberry’s projection cart, where they will see an incandescent bulb similar to the ones that illuminated the Exposition’s buildings and grounds with electric energy channeled partly from Niagara Falls. Face-recognition software will then capture their likenesses (ideally to their surprise), and thus they will become part of the installation, their faces superimposed onto a projection of vintage photographs depicting Pan Am visitors strolling through the Exposition. Bradbury’s work, while amusing in its seemingly old-fashioned content, oscillates between the past and the present, uniting the two through insuperable curiosity and our desire to have the world at our fingertips.

Hughes, Holly E. “Albright-Knox” in Beyond/In Western New York 2010 Alternating Currents, (Buffalo: The Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, 2010), 14-15.