Home Arts for Transit Zoetrope of the Day: Union Square in Motion

Zoetrope of the Day: Union Square in Motion

by Benjamin Kabak

Union Square in Motion is the world's largest digital linear zoetrope (Photo via Joshua Spodek)

I wonder how many transit systems can say they are home to two life-sized zoetropes. While Manhattan-bound riders on the B and Q have long spied the Masstransiscope just east of the Manhattan Bridge, straphangers passing through Union Square can now marvel at the world’s largest digital linear zoetrope.

As part of a temporary Arts for Transit installation, the MTA along with a professor from Parsons the New School of Design and his students unveiled “Union Square in Motion” earlier this week. Consisting of abstract and organic images, the scenes move as subway riders walk past the display. The installation is similar to a project designer Joshua Spodek and his team installed in Bryant Park last year.

“When you see two strangers stop to look then start talking to each other, amazed at the art they’re seeing in the subway, you realize what art can do to create community and draw people together,” Spodek said.

The display is current housed in a temporarily vacant retail space outside of the fare control area and below the Food Emporium along 14th Street east of Fourth Avenue. “These works of art will be shown in series, so subway riders will get a fresh visual treat each time they walk through the station,” Lester Burg, Program Manager for MTA Arts for Transit, explained. For more on the project, check out Spodek’s website. I’ve embedded a behind-the-scenes video of the installation process after the jump.

Behind the Scenes – Installation from Union Square in Motion on Vimeo.

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John Paul N. September 28, 2011 - 6:44 pm

I have a question (or two): Is the artwork at the 66th Street – Lincoln Center station considered to be a zoetrope? After a lady in a lecture brought it up, the classification has fascinated me.

The second question: Does the MTA plan to install a zoetrope or other artwork in the uptown Bleecker Street station once that section is closed?

skunky September 28, 2011 - 8:54 pm

um lots of European subways have advertising in tunnels using zoetropes. sorry to rain on your parade.

SpendmoreWastemore September 29, 2011 - 10:15 am

This sort of stuff is important; in NYC, especially if one uses the subway often one needs a moment’s relief from the endless grime, filth and sundry sensory assault. Anything fun or uplifting poking its nose into the situation earns its keep.

Of course the TWU would rather have two more elevator button-pushers (as seen at 181st on the 1) than anything that benefits the people who pay their inflated incomes.

ferryboi September 29, 2011 - 4:52 pm

I’d rather they just ban the friggin’ bucket-bangers on the BMT and IRT platforms at Union Square. You can’t hear a damn thing when these “musicians” are banging their buckets. Any announcement on the platforms or trains is drowned out by their incessant banging, which seems to go on 20 hours a day.

The MTA lives in a dream world where zeotropes are installed while bucket-bangers take over the stations. Insane.

John-2 September 29, 2011 - 11:29 am

Now all they need to do is figure out how to put zoetrope artwork on the moving platforms at Union Square…

Union Square in Motion | Perception and Playthings September 29, 2011 - 1:20 pm

[…] week, and I can’t wait to see it! Benjamin Kabak wrote a great post about the zoetrope on 2nd Ave Sagas (including the below behind the scenes video), and here’s a link to Joshua Spodek’s […]

Prester John September 29, 2011 - 10:16 pm

Shanghai has several zoetropes, used to display advertising.

Joshua Spodek » Press and reviews of Union Square in Motion September 30, 2011 - 5:33 pm

[…] 2nd Ave. Sagas: “Zoetrope of the Day: Union Square in Motion“ […]

MTA Arts for Transit Union Square Lenticular Zoetrope Installation | Jeanne Kelly October 20, 2011 - 11:08 am

[…] 2nd Ave. Sagas: “Zoetrope of the Day: Union Square in Motion“ […]

Jeanne Kelly December 9, 2011 - 9:34 am

As the project manager and one of the artist in the group I can tell you that no public funds were used for this in any way. We had to raise the money ourselves through Kickstarter. The money we couldn’t raise came from our own pockets. so no worries on wasting taxpayer’s or the MTA’s money. 🙂
The MTA was contacted by us, not the other way around. The MTA was also very hands off except when it came to approving the animations and the safety of the equipment we used. Their concern was that we not use public space for anything offensive or dangerous, both legitimate and honorable concerns.
I think there are two issues here that are also maybe a little confusing to some. This it the worlds largest “digital lenticular zoetrope” the key word there being lenticular. 🙂 There are zoetropes all over the subway stations all over the world. They are larger, but only because they need to be. The lenses on ours affords us the opportunity to reduce the amount of space needed to produce movement. So that’s one distinction.
Also, ours were done for fun and for the enjoyment of everyone, not to sell you something. Our zoetrope is not advertising. I think that is huge! The MTA could have stuck one more ad in this space, which no one needs, but instead they chose to allow art. Also, no one needs to pay to see these. They are in the part of the subway anyone can access, before the turnstiles, again, unlike the other zoetropes around the world, they are there for everyone to enjoy. 🙂
And I’d like to say thank you to everyone who’s written and said they enjoyed the work. Thank You! Thank You! Nothing is quite as satisfying as knowing people appreciate the work you do. 🙂 Hopefully the MTA will let us put these up in other places (like some of you suggested) if the public respond is so favorable. Thanks again! 🙂

Union Square in Motion | Jeanne Kelly, IxD/UI/UX Designer November 5, 2014 - 7:58 pm

[…] 2nd Ave. Sagas: “Zoetrope of the Day: Union Square in Motion“ […]

Union Square in Motion | Jeanne Kelly February 22, 2015 - 4:21 pm

[…] 2nd Ave. Sagas: “Zoetrope of the Day: Union Square in Motion“ […]


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