Matthew Buckingham. A Man of the Crowd. 2003

Matthew Buckingham A Man of the Crowd 2003

  • Not on view

Buckingham's 16mm film installation is a complex staging of Edgar Allan Poe's 1840 story "The Man of the Crowd," a brilliant portrait of alienation, anonymity, and the uncanny in the modern industrial city and also one of the first literary expressions of the nineteenth-century character of the flâneur, the well-to-do urban wanderer on a covert search for aesthetic or erotic adventure. Buckingham transposes the London setting of Poe's story to the Vienna of Sigmund Freud and Graham Greene, tracing a young man’s pursuit of a mysterious, older stranger through the streets of the city for an entire day and night. Failing to learn the stranger’s identity or make a meaningful connection, the young man then begins the hunt anew.

Poe's themes of doubling and shadowing, attraction, disorientation, and estrangement, physiognomy and typecasting, and self and doppelganger manifest themselves in the mechanics of the installation. Buckingham projects the film onto and through a semi-metallic, two-way glass screen that produces reversed images and multiple reflections of its protagonists. The twenty-four-hour narrative is condensed into a continuous, twenty-one-minute loop that evokes the young man's never-ending quest. Buckingham insinuates himself into the story—he is seen reflected from time to time in windows and mirrors as he follows on the heels of his fictional characters like a noir detective, or that other mythical type, the inconspicuous, objective documentary filmmaker. The gallerygoer who crosses the path of the projected image also becomes a shadowy figure in the crowd—a "third man."

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 217.
16mm film (black and white, sound; 21:10 min.) and two-way mirror of semi-reflective glass
Dimensions variable
Fund for the Twenty-First Century
Object number
© Matthew Buckingham
Media and Performance

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