Subway Motion Animation

Look at the video below.  This sight thrills me every time I am on a Brooklyn subway train heading towards the Manhattan bridge.  I think of it as Subway Motion Animation:




The video clip above was taken with my phone as I rode the B Subway train from Brooklyn’s Dekalb station towards Manhattan yesterday.  It’s a long ride between the Dekalb station and the Manhattan bridge where the train exits the tunnels to ride in the open air before diving back into the tunnels and Grand Street Station on the Manhattan side.  At one point the typical subway tunnel darkness outside the windows turns into brightly lit walls with numerous panels of art.

And lo, whoa!, it’s the MTA magic lantern show!

As the train whizzes past the art, vertical beams passing between the subway and the carefully spaced out art panels act like the sprockets of a film projector with the subway window the lens and the art on the wall the film strip.

subway art

Turns out what we are seeing is “Masstransiscope,” a 36-year-old art installation by Bill Brand that sits on an abandoned Brooklyn subway station platform, visible to B and Q train riders who know to look out of the train to their right at the right time before the train pulls up to traverse the Manhattan Bridge.

I found this quote in a 2013 article about “Masstransiscope“:

The installation functions like a zoetrope—the 228 whimsical still images painted on 57 galvanized metal panels inside the installation’s long plywood frame are seen by riders through a series of more than 200 thin vertical slits.

The movement of the passing trains produces an optical illusion that makes the images inside appear to move: a circular cell is wrapped by vine-like lines until it explodes like a supernova, a cartoon rocket lifts off on a cone of orange flame.

I never tire of enjoying this particularly ingenious piece of subway art.  And luckily I often have good reason to take the B (or Q) train into Manhattan.  But for those who don’t, the video above is for you.  Hope you enjoy.

But what is the musical connection, you ask.  Um….

How about a picture of Billy Joel’s Turnstiles album?


Or Glee’s recording of “Don’t Sleep on the Subway”?





About dannyashkenasi

I'm a composer with over 40 years experience creating music theater. I'm also an actor, writer, director, producer, teacher and general enthusiast for the arts.
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