'Spectacle: The Music Video' exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image
The Museum of the Moving Image has launched "Spectacle: The Music Video," a dazzling new exhibit that showcases the artistry of music videos -- their cinematography, their choreography and their impressive sleights of hand. Madonna, Kanye West, Radiohead and Arcade Fire are among dozens of artists whose clips are featured, with boundary-pushing filmmakers such as David Fincher and Michel Gondry represented, too. Here are five things to know about the exhibit before you go.
1. The music video predates the launch of MTV in 1981
In the 1920s, "music films" featured performances popular with movie audiences; Warner Bros. made more than 2,000 of them between 1926 and 1930. You can see a few of those clips, as well as offerings from the 1960s French video jukeboxes known as Scopitones.
2. Music videos aren't just "commercials for songs"
The clips here display so much ambition and artistic depth, it's hard to believe that they've been beamed into homes on a continuous basis for more than 30 years. Among the standouts are a-ha's animation hybrid "Take On Me," the White Stripes' Legoland fantasia "Fell In Love With A Girl" and Beck's Mad magazine fold-in homage, "Girl."
3. There's a lot to take in
The exhibit has more than 20 hours of video programming, thanks only in part to supersized clips like Kanye West's "Runaway" (clocking in at more than 30 minutes). Leave yourself at least a couple of hours to stare at one of the exhibit's many screens and wait for whatever piece of pop artistry might show up next -- just like the MTV generation did.
4. Controversy, music videos have gone hand in hand
The exhibit's "Agent Provocateur" section is set up like a peep show where videos that caused a ruckus -- because of sexual content or violence -- play in a continuous loop. Watching videos that were controversial in their day -- Madonna's hotel romp, "Justify My Love," or NWA's gritty "Straight Outta Compton" -- makes you wonder how newer clips like M.I.A.'s hyperviolent "Born Free" will play in 2033.
5. MTV has abandoned 24-hour video programming, but the music video lives on
OK Go's "This Too Shall Pass" -- a single-shot clip showcasing an outlandish Rube Goldberg machine -- is on display, as are the paint-spattered suits worn (and destroyed) by the band during its making. The video for David Bowie's brand-new "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" is in the mix as well. And once passive viewers get in on the act with YouTube-beloved Literal Music Videos that describe the action in clips like "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in painstaking detail.
If you go
MUSEUM OF THE MOVING IMAGE 36-01 35th Ave., Astoria, Queens; 718-777-6888, movingimage.us