Sunday, August 15, 2010


This will probably be old news to New Yorkers, but I moved out of the city before this was created and never managed to see it on my visits home.

Bill Brand used the principles of a zootrope and the existence of an abandoned subway station (one which trains pass at full speed) to create the above animation. Here are some older news reports on the creation of the work.

Toronto has a subway and there are stretches where this kind of thing could be done. However, I think it would be more interesting to do it outside the elevators of the CN Tower. How great would it be to see animation on clear plastic (cels!) of somebody falling and opening a parachute as you descend back to ground level? Or something totally surreal as people in rocking chairs or rowing boats in the sky, as Dorothy sees out her window during the tornado in The Wizard of Oz?

In any case, my hat is off to Bill Brand for finding this use for animation and for livening up the commute to work.

(link via 37signals.)


Galen Fott said...

I lived in Brooklyn in the early 90s and remember looking out the subway window in stunned disbelief the first time I saw this! Apparently that was after the first restoration of the Masstransiscope, and another restoration has just occurred. It is an amazing and imaginative use of animation, I'm glad to hear it's back in operation.

Molasses said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Molasses said...

Edit: Made a writing goof. Too bad simple edits aren't allowed.

Weeeeiirrd. I was at Chester Sta. yesterday trying to remember Bill's name. Remember thinking this was the coolest thing when it came out. With the explosion of street artists surprised more animated stuff hasn't popped up.

You should do the CN Tower installation Mark! That's a great idea!

I think something like the Dorothy vision would be interesting. Perhaps, it could be fairly transparent too so that there's a "did you see that!?" type wonder at the end of the ride?

J Lee said...

When the Montreal subway opened for Expo '67, they had a stroboscopic ad for Players cigarettes in at least one of the tunnels (the pack would open and a cigarette would come out as the train moved down the track), so it has been used in at least one Canadian subway system.

The current irony of the Masstransiscope in NYC is the gentrification of the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge) area is that the people above ground there would probably want to exchange the exhibit for some station entrances and turnstiles, since there are a lot more residents in the area now then when it was closed back in the 1950s (but there are several other abandoned stations in the system that could host stroboscopic art just as well).