Friday, August 30, 2013

Motion and illusion at the Moving Image Museum

TECOM is the kind of place one would associate with business and residential towers, assorted hotels and bars, and an odd, winding, ring road (seriously, it looks like an amoeba eating smaller microbes if viewed using Google Maps). Not "al culthshur", for sure.

Moving Image Museum in TECOM

But culture is exactly what we got earlier this year, when communications magnate Akram Miknas contributed his personal collection of pre-movie motion illusion novelty pieces to create the Moving Image Museum on level 1 of the MCN Hive, the HQ of his MCN company.

Akram Miknas narrating

A short video is first shown to visitors in the film room, narrated by Miknas himself, in which he describes the history of moving image art, and demonstrates with some examples and clips. In the timeline on the entrance wall, one can see that it is dominated by the 1790s to the 1890s, the golden age of the moving image. This is, of course, to be expected; it was the time when global fairs and expositions came into fashion, and attracting attention with crowd-pleasing innovation was the order of the day. To than end, men used all available illusions, materials, techniques and technologies to wow the masses.

Magic lantern

Although the museum looks small, there is a huge assortment of items within. There's an especially nice collection of magic lanterns, ranging from small to huge. These are the days in which projectors had chimneys, instead of vents, as they used combustion to produce light. Whether intricate or rustic, each piece is its own line, being made before modern mass-production injection-molding and standardized parts took off.

Depth illusion peep show and phenakistoscope slides

Other display cases house collections of stereoscopes, mutoscopes, zoetropes, praxinoscopes, and many other devices. There are also a number of these kept out of the display cases, so that visitors can interact with them.

Zoetrope with rotation mechanism, and thaumatropes

The far side of the gallery is dominated by a huge kaiserpanorama, with which multiple visitors can peer at beautiful, high-definition yester-century photography, colored vibrantly, and rotated through 3D steroscopic visors.

Interactive stereoscope and mutoscopes. You can watch the steampunk edition of Avatar 3D.

The gift shop has a nice collection too, priced reasonably. Outside, there's table space for private events. The entry price of AED 50 is about worth the experience; after all, this is the kind of exhibition one typically sees in European capitals. Each item on display is unique, incorporating intricate hand-crafted decorative art work as well as the mechanical and optical trickery necessary to amuse viewers, and and so will invite close inspection. If you're interesting in history and/or science and/or art, you will want to spend a lot of time here; I recommend an hour at least.

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