Exhibit Review: Playing with the Senses

By Veronica Chavez

This past April, the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY, debuted a new 16-part exhibit titled Sensory Stories: An Exhibition of New Narrative Experiences.

The first component of the exhibit Untitled on Google Cube is installed within a seemingly mundane room. The small space contains a cube atop a podium and the image of a woman projected against a wall. A sign below the cube reads, “Pick me up.”

When the cube is lifted from its stand, the image suddenly jolts to life. Turning the cube over causes new videos to appear, each one now emerging on a different side of a cube-shaped projection. The clips Google chose to use in this installation–including images of homeless men being dragged on the street and workers trying to escape from an enclosed office–make the whole experience even stranger.

Traveling further into the museum quickly reveals that most of the other installations are to be viewed on tablets with headphones on. As it was a Friday afternoon when I visited, the presence of the dense crowd the exhibit attracted only permitted me to view four of these installations.

The videos in this portion were all jam-packed with information requiring a lot of standing, reading, and in my case, hoping that something more interesting would pop up and surprise me. Nothing did.

Each short film also seemed a bit too long for a museum with so many visitors. Noticing people waiting in my peripherals, I felt pressured to rush, and actually left most of these videos halfway through.

Despite this letdown, I was still excited for the three-part virtual reality experience I had acquired a timed-ticket for.

As I sat there waiting for my turn to use the Oculus Rift, it quickly became clear that this was the most sought-out component of Sensory Stories, albeit the most unorganized.

Visitors began streaming in only to be met with a museum attendant informing them that they needed a time-ticket–and then informing them that there were no timed tickets left two seconds later. This interaction happened about 20 to 30 times as I sat there.

Besides the slight awkwardness of envious passersby and the somewhat long wait (it took me an hour and a half to see all three parts), the short films on view were whimsical, intriguing, and extremely entertaining.

If you have a couple of hours to kill while in Long Island City, Queens, I’d recommend checking out the virtual reality portion of Sensory Stories. Just get there early, and if possible on a weekday to avoid a huge crowd.

All photos by Veronica Chavez.

‘Sensory Stories: An Exhibition of New Narrative Experiences’ will be on display at the Museum of the Moving Image until July 26, 2015.