In the 17th Century a device was invented to transform the projection of light into incredible shows which took people’s breath away. This device was the magic lantern.

For many people it was the first time they saw projected moving images – what a spectacle it must have been!

Aware of their enchanting effect, these intricate machines were often used by magicians and conjurers to create spellbinding tales of ghosts and spirits in the darkness of the projection room.

The magic lantern’s relatively simple mechanism, a direct ancestor of the motion picture projector, enables us to understand how moving images work and creates a sense of wonder, taking us far away from the incomprehensibility and cryptic nature of our digital age.

Opening in The Beaney’s Special Exhibitions Room this Saturday, ‘Stories in the Dark’ will use film, projection and sound to create work inspired by these Victorian magic lanterns and their original slides.

The exhibition is a co-commission between The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge and Whitstable Biennale, with curated work by Ben Judd and nine specially selected artists.

Artists will use the magic lanterns and items from The Beaney’s unique collections to stimulate and inspire visitors with new and contemporary artworks.

Introducing the artists…


Ben Judd

Curator and established London artist, his performances and videos examine his relationship to specific individuals and groups in the search for an unreachable and idealised state of community.

Jordan Baseman

With his ‘Disambiguation’, a 35mm slide projection of an arrow that appears on the gallery wall intermittently, the artist gives shape to our desire to look and to discover.

Adam Chodzko

Whitstable artist, Adam Chodzko stuns us with images of dust ‘explosions’  in his Ask The Dust;in his second work Mask Filter Arc he then combines the Beaney’s Venus Flower Basket with two magic lantern slides, creating a lantern whose intense flashes of light remind us of the process of inspiration and expiration, ugliness and beauty.

Benedict Drew

Using two 35mm projectors and a rotating disc Benedict Drew takes us back to pre-cinema optical techniques that create the illusion of image moving –  the analogue equivalent to the digital GIF.

Louisa Fairclough

The Bristol artist’s handmade and expanded 16 mm film Magical Ideation (2016) explores the Magic Lantern Show’s properties of light and voice through the artisan process of early cinema; a looped and rhythmic incantation that draws on the experience of living in the mind’s eye.

Dryden Goodwin

Based on a series of drawings produced on traditional 3 ¼ inch slides of head studies of his mother, 13 X Christine (2016) includes the showcase of a different slide each week, creating a slow motion animation over the course of the exhibition.

Haroon Mirza

In his Radio Shacked Up (2012), a vintage projector has been flipped vertically and hung on a wall. Inside the machine a combination of LED lights and a vintage analogue radio create an ominous rhythmic hum, which can be heard through the radio’s speaker.

Linsay Seers

In her We Could Never Have Seen it Coming (2016) a projector is used in the form of anamorphosis to place imagery undistorted onto the curved surface of a reflective object, thus transforming the object into a mirror that remembers and replays a time past.

Guy Sherwin

Guy Sherwin’s new work Moon LED Revolution (2016) consists of images of the moon and sun projected from an adapted slide projector onto a rotating paper screen, creating movement on its shifting planar surface. Sherwin’s film works often use serial forms and live elements, and engage with light, time and sound as fundamentals to cinema.

Don’t miss this unique celebration of early cinema as artists bring vintage machines and technology bang up to date.

Stories in the Dark: Contemporary responses to the magic lantern

Saturday 19 March to Sunday 19 June 2016

Special Exhibitions Room and Various Galleries, The Beaney

The Whitstable Biennale festival 2016 will run 4-12 June. The exhibition is also part of the programme of the University of Kent’s International Festival of Projections, 18-20 March 2016.

Artists images [left to right]: Guy Sherwin, Adam Chodzko, Dryden Goodwin

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