When I described the new subway-tunnel “videos” as Warhol-esque, I didn’t realize that the flickering successive poster Target ads actually have an artistic precursor in the New York Subway:
Done 27 years ago by an artist named Bill Brand (not to be confused with the esteemed beer blogger of the same name) on an abandoned subway platform near the Manhattan Bridge, the installation featured successive paintings and slits in a wall between the images and passing subway cars. Letting viewers look through slits turned the subway into a very large zoetrope device. I now understand that zoetropes were those round Victorian-Era things with slits on the outside and pictures on the inside so that when you spun them, they showed what appeared to be a moving image.
The people from SideTrack, who put up the test Target ad in the tunnel between the Montgomery Street and Embarcadero BART stations, mentioned zoetrope several times to me. Each time, I thought, I know there’s an artsy movie studio by that name, I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about and I’m too embarassed to admit that.
The significance, as they must have been pointing out yesterday as I stared back, nodding intelligently, was that others had used this zoetrope method, but SideTrack simply uses a succession of pictures and no slits are needed to achieve the moving-picture effect.
This morning, I got a call from Capricious Commuter junkie David Vartanoff, who directed me to the excellent nycsubway.org Web site, run by a guy named David Pirmann. There I saw pictures of the zoetrope subway installation and its artist, which I have linked to this page, above.
If you know of any other unique public transit art, let me know.
Photo of Bill Brand and zoetrope subway art linked from www.nycsubway.org. Photo of zoetrope device from wikipedia.org