The Making of a 19th Century Spectacle: Artist Talk at The Coney Island Museum

100_4244Date: Thursday, September 22
Time: 7:30 PM
Admission: $5
Presented by Morbid Anatomy and The Coney Island Museum
***Location: Off-site at The Coney Island Museum (1208 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn)

On an average day in Coney Island around 1900, a visitor might be able to experience: A midget village modeled on 16th century Nuremberg and featuring its own parliament, hotel, stables with midget ponies, vaudeville house, and midget fire department rushing off to put out imaginary fires; A recreation of the destruction of Pompeii by volcano, San Francisco by earthquake, Galveston by flood, and/or Titanic by iceberg; A recreation village of the head-hunting Bontac Tribe of the Philippines with real tribes-people on display; An immersive spectacular which staged tenement fires every half hour and featured a cast of 2,000; A Boer War reenactment featuring real Boer War veterans; A trip to the moon, under the sea, or to heaven and hell by way of being buried alive in a glass coffin; and, as they say, much, much more.

In the exhibition The Great Coney Island Spectacularium, Observatory’s Joanna Ebenstein and artist Aaron Beebe seek-via installation, artifacts, and newly commissioned artworks-to explore, celebrate, and evoke turn of the 20th Century Coney Island as the pinnacle of pre-cinematic immersive and spectacular amusement. The centerpiece of the exhibition is The Cosmorama of the Great Dreamland Fire, an immersive 360 degree spectacle based on the great panoramas and cosmoramas that populated Coney Island in the 19th century. It tells the story-in an immersive blend of image, sound, and light-of the most spectacular disaster in Coney Island history: the complete and dramatic destruction of Dreamland, one of the three great parks that made up turn of the century Coney Island, by fire 100 years ago in 1911. Dreamland was never rebuilt, but had it been, Ebenstein and Beebe are certain it would have given pride of place to a disaster spectacle that allowed visitors to experience the great fire that had once destroyed it. The Cosmorama of the Great Dreamland Fire is their attempt to create this attraction that should have been, and to allow contemporary audiences to experience a 19th century-style immersive spectacle of the sort celebrated in the exhibition.

This Thursday September 22, the crew behind the conception and construction-which include Observatory’s Joanna Ebenstein and Wythe Marschall as well as sound engineers, scenic painters, lighting designers, and artisans from the Metropolitan Opera and other institutions-will be on hand at The Coney Island Museum to discuss the making of the piece, answer your questions, and lead guided tours of the exhibition.

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