In 2001, the Department of Photographs acquired the Metropolitan's first example of video art—a mesmerizing, elemental work by Ann Hamilton that, in its small scale and unassuming presentation, seemed almost like a still photograph come to life. This exhibition presents a selection from the growing collection put together by the department over the last five years.
Several of the works in this exhibition explicitly blur the lines between still and moving images. Closed Circuit (1997–2000), by the American artist Lutz Bacher, creates a composite portrait and affecting narrative from thousands of individual video frames recording the late art dealer Pat Hearn at work in her office. Taking as his subject the same Hudson River Valley that inspired Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church, the artist Wolfgang Staehle uses more than eight thousand still images—synched to real time—to depict the landscape's subtle changes over the course of a single day in Eastpoint (September 15, 2004).
Other works in the exhibition relate video to more traditional forms of moving pictures. Schwebebahn (1995), by Darren Almond, is a hallucinatory vision of the past melding into the future—a mesmerizing ride via suspended rail shot in crudely beautiful Super-8 film and shown upside-down and in reverse. In Spielberg's List (2003), Omer Fast brilliantly deconstructs Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List through interviews with extras who appeared in the film. The LED work Motion and Rest #2 (2002) by the new media pioneer Jim Campbell is a digital update of Eadweard Muybridge's celebrated motion studies from the 1880s.
Also featured in the exhibition are provocative and important video works of the 1990s: David Hammons' haunting and humorous Phat Free (1995/1999), which plays on metaphors of invisibility and death; and Maria Marshall's disturbingly seductive When I Grow Up I Want to Become A Cooker (1998), a vision of maternal dread that employs digital effects to create the appearance of a young boy confidently smoking a cigarette.