The Fashion in Film Festival - a biennial showcase celebrating the common ground shared by fashion and film - returns to London this year with a special programme reminiscent of days gone by. Kinoscope Parlour (15 November - 14 December), a project supported through Film London's Digital Film Archive Fund, brings back an appreciation to the general public of the once popular peephole machines - the age old Kinetoscope.
Twelve different locations in the run-up to, and throughout, the festival will host a contemporary re-imagining of the Kinetoscope - presenting a selection of feature films made by the pioneers of early cinema, as well as archive footage that will reveal hidden layers of local cinema history. The six units, specially designed for the project, will be placed in key locations in the capital's outer boroughs from 15 November, before the Kinoscope Parlour is re-located to London's central boroughs for the course of the festival. For four weeks, passers-by will be able to transport themselves back to a bygone era through the magic of the moving image.
A Brief History
American scientist Thomas Edison, best known as the inventor of the electric light bulb, first brought about the concept of the Kinetoscope back in the 1880s. The silent film exhibition device, largely developed by Edison's employee William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, was designed to string together sequences of still images in order to create the illusion of movement. Individuals could peer through a peephole viewer at the top of the Kinetoscope cabinet to view strips of film negative displayed over a light source with a high-speed shutter - a basic format that was adopted globally as the standard for motion picture film, which remains to this day.
In 1891, the first public demonstration of a prototype Kinetoscope was given to members of the National Federation of Women's Clubs. However, it wasn't until the following year that the design became complete: the business potential of the Kinetoscope was brought into force and coin operation became a central part of the machine's mechanics. The first proper outing for this new fangled contraption was in 1893 at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences and in 1894 a public Kinetoscope parlour was opened in New York.
Albeit an expensive form of entertainment at the time, it was an immediate success - people were fascinated by the possibility of the moving image. Parlours soon sprung up outside of the US and the first exhibition space was opened in London in October 1894.
Show and Tell
Taking the idea of the original Kinetoscope was the basis of Fashion in Film Festival's special project - the Kinoscope Parlour. The notion behind this new strand of the popular event was not just to find an appropriate way to showcase archive film, but to bring back the sense of cinema as an attraction - where the mode of exhibition, the very act of showing and looking, is highlighted as an integral part of the process.
Not only has the excitement of the late 19th Century viewing experience been re-created, but it has been given a thoroughly modern twist by designer Mark Garside. Cutting-edge digital technology allows the viewer to control the speed of projection - you can turn the wheel to animate the films at your own pace, or pause to freeze and study a still frame.
Watch films made by some of cinema's pioneers, such as Georges Méliès, Gaston Velle and Alice Guy-Blaché, as well as screen heritage material from the UK and beyond - including footage of early skirt and fantasy dances. The selection of films available to view stress the key role that costume has played in early cinema, showcasing some mesmerising costume manipulations and magical transformations. Footage documenting the local history of the area in which each machine is located will also form part of the programme.
For the first leg of the tour (15-28 November) the Kinoscope Parlour can be found at the following sites: Castle Green in Dagenham, CREST charity shop in Walthamstow, Kilburn Library, Lewisham Library, Queen's Market in Upton Park and Wolves Lane Nursery in Wood Green. A map on the official festival website offers a visual guide to these locations, as well as further information on the second round of the tour, which starts on 30 November.
The 3rd Fashion in Film Festival, which is partnered and supported by a number of major cultural institutions internationally, takes place 1 to 12 December at four core London venues - The Horse Hospital, Tate Modern, Barbican and BFI Southbank. The Kinoscope Parlour is funded by Film London and the UK Film Council's Digital Film Archive Fund, supported by the National Lottery.