Once Seen the Moving Panorama

The photographs with this post are from our visit to Laumeier Sculpture Park last weekend. They focus on the artwork, Once Seen (The Moving Panorama), by Matts Leiderstam. His work is a tribute to the 19th century American painter, John Banvard, whose specialty was the moving panorama, a precursor to our modern motion pictures. Banvard’s most famous artwork was a panorama of the Mississippi River. Eventually extended to a half-mile in length, Banvard’s historic panorama captured thirty-eight scenes along the river. It scrolled at the speed of an up bound river steamboat. Banvard made his fortune displaying this painting, both here and abroad.

Leiderstam’s viewfinder is intended to act as a scale model of Banvard’s theater. It offers a 360° view of Laumeier’s grounds. The viewfinder re-inscribes the artistic frame around the park’s manicured landscapes. In his art, Leiderstam searches for the traces of the discriminatory human manipulation that created these park lands. Leiderstam’s goal is to show how the artist is also responsible for reinforcing behaviors and assumptions by representing only what people want to see in their cultural landscape.

Banvard’s Mississippi panorama did not survive, but last year the Saint Louis Art Museum displayed a similar artwork by John J. Egan, Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley. While only a fraction of the other’s length, Egan’s panorama was a contemporary Banvard’s Mississippi panorama and likely an imitation. Just like today’s movies and TV shows, one artist success is soon copied by others.

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