Nudie pics, murder and spectacular theatre in Whitehorse

A naked man running down the stairs inspired Studies in Motion. The interdisciplinary production, coming to the Yukon Arts Centre this week, explores the eccentric life of Eadweard Muybridge

A naked man running down the stairs inspired Studies in Motion.

The interdisciplinary production, coming to the Yukon Arts Centre this week, explores the eccentric life of Eadweard Muybridge—a Victorian murderer cum photographer.

“His photos are haunting and weird because his subjects were all naked,” said Studies in Motion creator Kevin Kerr.

But it’s not quite as weird as it sounds.

Muybridge, who started out as a landscape and portrait photographer, became more and more obsessed with movement.

“He would take sequential photos of animals moving, or people doing pedestrian actions, like climbing steps or throwing balls, to break down the elements of motion,” said Kerr.

But cameras didn’t take shots in quick succession back then.

“You’d have to put in glass plates … to get a single shot was a big process,” said Kerr.

So, Muybridge would set up a long string of cameras—two dozen in a row—and he’d fire them in quick succession.

“It was the forerunner of cinema, but he didn’t anticipate that,” said Kerr.

“If you look at his pictures, they look like a strip of celluloid.”

Realizing the implicit movement in his photos was interesting, Muybridge transferred some of them to glass slides and showed them using a glass lantern.

He even approached Thomas Edison, famous for his phonograph as well as his light bulb, and suggested combining the photos with the phonograph.

It would have been the creation of film.

But Edison feigned disinterest.

Soon after, Edison filed for a patent on what he called a kinetoscope—a cylinder with photographic images arranged in a spiral.

He basically ripped off Muybridge’s idea, said Kerr.

But Muybridge was more interested in the science of movement than in the invention of motion pictures.

Painter Francis Bacon admired his work, added Kerr.

“As did Marcel Duchamp.

“Muybridge triggered something that reformed culture.

“He believed that our human sense are not enough to understand the world so he wanted to pry back the veils of nature, and stop time to see what’s happening.”

Kerr accidentally tripped over Muybridge’s quirky past while researching another production.

“I thought, ‘Who is this guy? What is his story?’” he said.

And it got even more interesting.

A decade before his photographic studies in motion, Muybridge stood trial for murder.

“He was tried for the murder of his wife’s lover, who was, ironically, a theatre critic,” said Kerr.

“He definitely killed him—I was cold-blooded murder—there were a dozen witnesses, but Muybridge was acquitted.

“It was frontier justice.”

Intrigued by Muybridge’s demons, Kerr began to imagine a production that would express the photographer’s visual world.

“And I wanted to break out of the linear text-based narrative,” he said. “Although the plot is still narrative driven.”

Employing digital lighting, Studies in Motion uses projections that were designed on a screen, much like Photoshop.

“It’s incredibly flexible,” said Kerr.

“You can even have text and make it appear where you want—there are endless looks and layers.”

Much of the action takes place against a giant grid, because Muybridge had his subjects work in front of a grid, said Kerr.

“The lighting is almost like a player in the story—it’s part of the narrative—it interacts with the actors.”

Then, Canadian dance sensation Crystal Pite got involved and movement joined lighting as part of the cast.

“Modern dance was affected greatly by the way Muybridge’s imagery revealed the human body,” said Kerr.

And his obsession with movement lends itself to dance.

“So Pite took the time to choreograph the movement elements of this piece,” said Kerr.

“Part of the journey of the piece is it’s a little less literal and a little more imagistic.”

Kerr also collaborated with a Vancouver composer, who created an original score.

“And at the centre is Vancouver’s most exciting and imaginative director Kim Collier,” said Kerr.

“It’s a perfect storm of artistry.”

Kerr, who studied theatre in Vancouver, formed a company with three other classmates who met at Studio 58.

Called Electric Company Theatre, the foursome are no strangers to the territory.

One of the founders spent summers in Dawson working at the old Gaslight Follies, said Kerr.

She convinced Kerr to come up for a summer.

“While I was in school I always fantasized about the North,” he said.

After a summer in Dawson, Kerr ended up in Whitehorse for a year.

Another member of the Electric Company also spent time in Dawson, and wrote one of the follies.

“And in 2002, we spent another summer at the Palace Grand,” said Kerr.

“So the opportunity to come to Whitehorse with the show is an excuse for us to get back to the Yukon.”

Studies in Motion is at the Yukon Arts Centre March 25 through 27th at 8 p.m.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes


Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Josi Leideritz, the executive director for the Yukon Quest International Association (Canada), poses for a photo in Whitehorse on Oct.1, 2020. The Quest announced plans for its 2022 race to start in Fairbanks on Feb. 5. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2022 Quest planning gets underway

Race would begin Feb. 5 in Fairbanks

Beadwork and boots being sold by the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association. A survey from StatsCan reveals the number of Indigenous people who make handmade crafts. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Survey reveals number of Yukoners who speak Indigenous languages

Yukon is behind Nunavut and Northwest Territories when it comes to language retention

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read