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Phantasmagoria: Pre-Cinema to Virtuality

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


27 Mar 1996 to 14 Jul 1996


Agnes Hegedüs, Toshio Iwai, Georges Méliès, Tony Oursler


Peter Callas & David Watson

about the exhibition

Phantasmagoria: Pre-Cinema to Virtuality paid homage to the world’s first purpose-built cinema, opened on 4 April 1886. It was a magic theatre remodelled by magician-turned-filmmaker Georges Méliès, the first artist of cinema. The exhibition considered the history of cinema as it looked to the future with the work of three prominent video and computer artists whose contemporary explorations shared Méliès’ spirit: Toshio Iwai, Agnes Hegedüs and Tony Oursler.

The term Phantasmagoria refers to imagery and illusion such as those seen within a dream or when in the grips of fever, and has a historical connection to an 18th century magic trick in which a lantern projected disturbing illuminations and apparitions, terrifying audiences of the day.

The exhibition included four complementary installations charting recent works by artists whose extraordinary innovations in new media revived a sense of awe and delight in the moving image, reimagining the impact experienced by the first film audiences in Méliès’ ‘magic cinema’.

A two part screening program accompanied the exhibition: a retrospective of the films of Méliès was coupled with a program of film, television and video examining his impact.