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Midway Projections

Curatorial statement 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.