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'Midnight Icarus', Mat Collishaw, 2010. © Mat Collishaw

'Midnight Icarus', Mat Collishaw, 2010. © Mat Collishaw

26 November 2010–27 March 2011

Artist Mat Collishaw was commissioned to animate the Museum's architecture with a work of haunting beauty. A monumental zoetrope – the cylindrical device first designed in 1834 to project a rapid succession of images to simulate motion – was the result. Over the winter and spring of 2010–2011, 'Magic Lantern' transformed the Museum's edifice into a beacon of light, brought to life by fluttering moths visible from dusk each evening.

Exploiting the theme of enchantment to the full, Collishaw played with scale, much like Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by grabbing the attention of South Kensington passers-by with his monumental fluttering moths in the Museum's uppermost dome, the crown cupola.

This commission was accompanied by a smaller replica zoetrope which animated the John Madejski Garden during the day, allowing a close-up view of the enchanting motion of moths in flight.

'Magic Lantern', Mat Collishaw, 2010. © Mat Collishaw

'Magic Lantern', Mat Collishaw, 2010. © Mat Collishaw

Artist Mat Collishaw (b.1966) is perhaps best-known for his inclusion in seminal YBA (Young British Artist) exhibitions including 'Freeze' (1988) and 'Sensation' (1997), having since built an impressive body of work spanning photography, film and installation using combinations of technologies new and old.

His subject matter juxtaposes traditional notions of beauty and innocence with disquiet and the uncanny. The moth is an apt reference: its beauty and delicacy belying suggestions of things Gothic and haunting.

The V&A's Contemporary Programmes has established a legacy of publicly and critically acclaimed new media commissions including 'Volume' (2006), 'Forever' (2008) and 'Mirror, Mirror' (2009). This ambitious project, however, propels Contemporary's interventions in a new direction, using remarkable heights of the Museum for site-specific work.

Supported by the Friends of the V&A

Video:  Mat Collishaw: Magic lantern

View transcript of video

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