Exhibitions: Matthew Buckingham: "The Spirit and the Letter"

The Spirit and the Letter

Matthew Buckingham (American, b. 1963). Still from The Spirit and the Letter, 2007. Continuous video projection with sound, electrified chandelier, mirror. Dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Murray Guy, New York

September 3, 2011–January 8, 2012

Matthew Buckingham’s installation The Spirit and the Letter is an homage to Mary Wollstonecraft, the eighteenth-century writer and philosopher.  Comprised of a video projection and sculptural components,  Buckingham’s work questions the role that social memory and historical representation play in contemporary life, encouraging viewers to question how they hear and see what is most familiar to them. Excerpts from Wollstonecraft’s writing, compiled and edited by Buckingham, are spoken as a monologue in the video. The text is primarily drawn from  Wollstonecraft’s important A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in which she passionately asserted the equality of the sexes and demonstrated through her own intellectual rigor that women are not inferior to men. The essay, the earliest known treatise on the subject, has been viewed as the foundation of the modern women’s rights movements in the Western world.

Accompanying Buckingham’s installation is a small exhibition of ephemera and books documenting Wollstonecraft’s life and work, focusing on her familial, social, and intellectual circles. This biographical display is curated from objects loaned by the New York Public Library.

Matthew Buckingham: "The Spirit and the Letter" is the latest exhibition to be featured in the Herstory Gallery, devoted to the remarkable contributions of the women named in The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago. Wollstonecraft is celebrated with one of the thirty-nine place settings in Chicago’s iconic feminist work.

Matthew Buckingham: "The Spirit and the Letter" was organized by Catherine Morris, Curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum.

This exhibition is made possible by the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation.

The Spirit and the Letter was originally co-commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and Camden Arts Centre in association with the Des Moines Art Center, Dundee Contemporary Art, FRAC Bourgogne, and the Henry Art Gallery with support from the Arts Council of England.


Visit the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center website.