Masstransiscope

By October 8, 2009Blog

A follow up about tonight’s talk by Bill Brand at the Transit Museum in Brooklyn on his public art project Masstransiscope. Installed in 1980 in an abandoned subway station and restored in 2008, Masstransiscope basically creates a life-sized zoetrope through the interaction of the moving train and the positioning of the images, lights, and view holes.

This is a magical work of art that surprises and delights me every time I view it on the train, right up there with walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and seeing the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry.

Bill Brand is a filmmaker, film preservationist through his company BB Optics, and a teacher of filmmaking and preservation. I caught his talk on this back in June. Entertaining and informative about the mechanics of moving image devices like zoetropes, about his process for creating the work, and about the recent preservation process. Highly recommended to check this out or some of Bill’s other work.

Joshua Ranger

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Grace Lile says:

    sorry i missed the talk. I first saw Masstransiscope around 1981 when i lived in Park Slope and commuted on the D train. No one lived in Brooklyn then – really! – It was like my own secret. i saw something similar not long ago – mexico city i think – a zoetrope in a subway. but it might have been advertising. in any case it couldn’t compare.

    • Josh says:

      I think that’s part of the beauty of it — it feels like a secret even though it’s a public work, possibly because everyone on the train is so focused in on reading/electronic devices/trying not to make eye contact that they don’t look around. When you see the sudden burst of color and movement amidst the dirty, gray subway walls that no one else is paying attention to, it feels like a special moment only you noticed.

      Bill has mentioned that some international advertising agencies have contacted him about the project, logistics, and such. They can create the same mechanisms, but not that handmade feel and brief, private journey.

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