Museum of the Moving Image
After a three-year renovation, the mediacentric Astoria institution reopens to the public. Prepare for sensory overload, and find out which events, films and exhibits you shouldn't miss.
Mon Jan 10 2011
1. New York City is a film town, as anyone whose block or subway station has been closed for a movie shoot can attest. Yet for the past three years, the Museum of the Moving Image, one of the first institutions to focus exclusively on that medium, has been on a partial hiatus. But no longer: Beginning Saturday 15, the fruits of the museum's $67 million expansion will be on view. Not only has Moving Image doubled in size, but key elements of its permanent collection have been updated, and new components have been added: The historic complex, once a production facility for Paramount Pictures, will soon include a 10,000-square-foot courtyard garden that will host screenings and exhibits.
2. Thomas Leeser's sleek new design integrates moving pictures right into the space. As visitors pass through the mirrored, screenlike entrance into the lobby, they'll encounter City Glow, a 50-foot-long video projection created by Japanese pop artist Chiho Aoshima in 2005; the colorful, psychedelic piece shows the progression of a quirky city from day to night. New Yorkers may already be familiar with Aoshima's work; stills from the animation were hung in the Union Square subway station in 2005 as part of a Public Art Fund exhibit.
3. As you ascend the lobby's grand staircase, take note of the new video amphitheater that was built into it: The steps open up onto a set of staggered seats and a small screen that will show video art. During opening weekend, you can check out Martha Colburn's animated short Dolls vs. Dictators, which was commissioned specifically for the museum. The New York artist took inspiration from the museum's extensive collection of props, movie merchandise and dolls to create an animated collage that tells a tale of good and evil.
4. For the museum's newest exhibit, "Real Virtuality," six installations draw viewers into virtual worlds created using cutting-edge new-media technology. For example, Into the Forest (created by the OpenEnded Group) allows participants to play a game of hide-and-seek in a digital forest that looks hand-drawn. Meanwhile, in The Night Journey, acclaimed video artist Bill Viola uses video-game software to take visitors on a meditative voyage toward enlightenment. "The works examine how simulation and imagery have become part of the world around us," says senior deputy director Carl Goodman. "We don't escape into a virtual reality—it's part of our everyday lives."
5. High-tech playtime commences in "Behind the Screen," the museum's core exhibit (which was completely updated during renovations). Here, you can insert sound effects into film scenes, record your voice into a part of The Wizard of Oz, or even make a short animated film and e-mail it to yourself. Learn about live video editing in the TV control room, where 14 different camera feeds from a Mets game show how a director splices the pieces together.
6. Film curator David Schwartz compares walking into the new 267-seat theater to "entering a spaceship and going on a voyage"; the effect is achieved with vibrant blue wraparound panels, a steep seating rake and flawless acoustics (no subway rumbles here), allowing for a completely immersive experience. It's the perfect place to see a sharp, new 70mm print of Stanley Kubrick's 1968 sci-fi masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey—don't worry, there's no super-aware computer waiting to sabotage the picture (Sat 15 at 4pm; $15, members free).
7. Meanwhile, a smaller, 68-seat screening room allows for more intimate showings of both indie and experimental films. Opening weekend highlights include quirky 8mm films by avant-garde darlings George and Mike Kuchar (Sat 15 at 5pm, Sun 16 at 5:30pm), and the premiere of a restored print of the Paul Newman classic The Hustler (Sat 15, Sun 16 at 2pm).
8. Opening weekend continues during Signal to Noise (Sat 15 8pm--2am; $20, advance $15, members $10), a smorgasbord of live electronic music, interactive art and performances, which takes over the institution on Saturday night. Your brain will be stimulated with fantastic imagery: Brooklyn artist Nick Yulman will use mechanical instruments to accompany silent films, while chiptune artists Bit Shifter and Nullsleep keep the dance floor going with 8-bit jams. Shake your booty—and exercise your funny bone—during a performance from techy group Fall on Your Sword, famous for mashing up thumping disco beats with ridiculous vintage videos of aging stars like William Shatner and David Hasselhoff. (Tiny red shorts are not required to party down.)
9. An inaugural film program, "Celebrating the Moving Image," features an enticing array of old favorites and rare screenings. Among the offerings are Federico Fellini's 1972 city portrait, Roma (Jan 29 at 4:15pm), and John Ford's 1927 comedy, Upstream (Jan 30 at 5pm); reels of the latter movie, which were thought to be lost forever, were recently uncovered in New Zealand. Live accompaniment is also on the docket: Later this month, Colorado's Mont Alto Orchestra backs the 1928 French film L'Argent with a Jazz-Age score (Jan 22 at 7:30pm, Jan 23 at 2pm; $25, members $15).
10. Moving Image's regular film programs will attract cinephiles, with indie screenings, international cinema and family-friendly fare. See some of India's best indie movies during the institution's Indian Cinema Showcase (Sun 16, Feb 12); other programs include a monthly focus on Korean cinema (check out Poetry by Lee Chang-dong, Jan 23 at 4pm), plus weekend matinees of kiddie flicks like Coraline (Mon 17 at 1pm).
ACTION! Museum of the Moving Image, 35th Ave at 37th St, Astoria, Queens (718-777-6888, movingimage.us). Tue--Thu 10:30am--5pm; Fri 10:30am--8pm; Sat, Sun 10:30am--7pm. $10, seniors and students $7.50, children 5--18 $5, members and children under 5 free; Fri 4--8pm free.