Everything is Illuminated

The end of 2013 marks the end of the 25th anniversary for the Queens Museum of the Moving Image and the composite of exhibits that close the year leverage the space for a “unified view” of the seemingly disparate worlds of film, television and video games—the very moving images the museum was based on, a pretty radical idea that ended up blossoming into something marvelous.

The museum is home to the ongoing comprehensive core exhibit Behind the Screen (which serves everything you ever wanted to know about the process of making moving images from tiny children’s toys to major motion pictures), innovative changing exhibitions, screenings of classic and cutting edge films, public discussions with leaders in the field such as Gus Van Sant and Alec Baldwin, educational programs and online projects. It has grown from a one-floor archive for nerdy types to a media cathedral satisfying both scholar and layman.

One of this month’s features is Lights, Camera, Astoria! a focus on the Astoria Studio complex where the museum has made its home. The exhibit is a time capsule, capturing both the history of this corner of Queens and a pivotal time in film—the compound was also the east coast base of Paramount Studios during the early days of the talkies.

Indie Essentials: 25 Must-Play Video Games is a playable exhibition of the games that have defined decades of gaming design and culture. It’s worth spending some time in this section, which is an ongoing playground for kids and the young at heart, tracing the evolution of graphics. How we were so moved by Pong once. How the joystick kept us amused for hours upon hours with its spartan architecture. The entire place is a bit of a trip down memory lane, a celebration of sorts, as well as a validation of the entertainment that laid the groundwork for the technology of our 2013 lives.

Even the lobby joins the party. Until January 4th, artists Will Carlough and Richard Boenigk’s installation Translation Party will use machine translation mechanisms to convert English phrases (offered via text message by live viewers) into Japanese and back into English. The idea is that the process is repeated until a certain “equilibrium” is reached in the form of unintelligible phraseology through the intentional misuse of the translation engine, proving that for this fantastical museum in Queens, everything—even conceptual rendering of characters in the alphabet—is indeed a moving image.

See it, live it! Translation Party is on view for visitor engagement through January 4. Lights, Camera, Astoria! remains on view through February 9. Discover more at movingimage.us

Words: Alan Semerdjian | Photo: Peter Aaron
Aaron/Esto photo courtesy of the Museum of the Moving Image

alan semerdjian

Alan Semerdjian is a writer, musician, English teacher, and occasional visual artist. Besides LI Pulse, his work has appeared in Newsday, Adbusters, Chain, The Lyric Review and numerous other print and online publications, anthologies, and chapbooks. His first full-length book of poetry is In the Architecture of Bone (Genpop Books 2009). You can visit him digitally at alanarts.com and find out about his music at alansemerdjian.com.