I love books. I live on books. I relish the smell of paper, and I love the dry, soft feel of the spine of an old book. Tablets are, for me, a sacrilege, and, until recently, I rarely, if ever, watched movies.
Now, however, I am absolutely obsessed with film; I want to know everything about it. How are actors chosen? How are scenes filmed? How is everything sewn together?
What, you ask, triggered this new fascination? Simple: I visited the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens. Here, I learned the how, and, more importantly, the why of filmmaking; indeed, I was readily, and happily, converted.
What did I enjoy most? I was absolutely enthralled by the collection of old film-equipment; I marveled at the bulky antique televisions; excitedly, I made my own stop-action films, and clowned around in front of an actual movie-grade apparatus. The exhibit on film in Queens – aptly titled Lights, Camera, Astoria! – was particularly informative; I really had no idea that Astoria was a cinematic and artistic hub. I was fascinated, indeed, to learn that independent filmmaking has always flourished here; Astoria was, and is, a place of experimentation, rebellion, and vision.
I admit, however, that I was most enthralled by what I first saw – namely, the film which plays on the front wall of the museum’s lobby, right in front of the concierge. I must’ve spent at least half an hour staring at this film; I was in a total trance.
The slow, dry groan of metal; the wail of gears; the pale, sharp crush of glass and plastic and paper. I realize that I am looking at a garbage dump; I really should not be this interested. And yet, I am fascinated; I, with eager eyes, watch the tubes, the pipes, and the devastating elegance of the yellow-streaked forklift.
What makes a work of art beautiful? Compelling? I am not sure. I do know, however, know that this installation – Single Stream – has broken my eyes wide open; it has sparked in me a world, a gray, shifting landscape of thought and imagination and retrospection. What does it mean for a society to produce so much garbage? What is beauty? What is excess? What does it mean to be thrown away?
This museum is an absolute treasure; I strongly encourage everyone to visit. I, for one, will return – that is, once I’ve finished watching my pile of newly acquired movies!
For more information about the museum, click here. Hint: admissions for students is only $9!