First North American Exhibition for Acclaimed Stop-Motion Animators Stephen and Timothy Quay Scene from Street of Crocodiles, 1986
Parsons The New School for Design will present Dormitorium: An Exhibition of Film Decors by the Quay Bros., from July 15 through October 4, 2009 at the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. The exhibition explores the macabre fantasy world of twin brothers Stephen and Timothy Quay through the highly detailed miniature sets of their influential stop-motion animations. Organized by the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Dormitorium represents the first time the sets (décors) of the London-based Quays have been exhibited in North America.
The Quay Brothers have built a cult following with their dark, moody films, which are heavily influenced by Eastern European film, literature, and music and often feature disassembled dolls and no spoken dialogue. The exhibition will combine 11 rarely seen, collaboratively designed miniature décors from some of the Quays’ most prominent works, as well as continuous screenings of excerpts from several of the films. Featured works include Street of Crocodiles (1986), The Epic of Gilgamesh, or This Unnameable Little Broom (1985), Stille Nacht I: Dramolet (1988), The Comb (1990), Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies (1988), The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer (1984), The Calligrapher (1991), and the feature film The PianoTuner of EarthQuakes (2006).
“Exploring the design process in relation to how we construct narratives is an important part of a Parsons education, and Dormitorium is an exhibition that goes beyond retrospective to really investigate the nature of creative work,” said Lydia Matthews, the dean of academic programs at Parsons The New School for Design. “This exhibition gives our students an opportunity to see how the Quay brothers create intricate fantasy worlds, from set design to finished film through their compelling engagement with literature, their command of sound and lighting design, their uncanny use of focus, color and texture, as well as their mastery of digital editing processes.”
Famously reclusive brothers Stephen and Timothy Quay claim writers Franz Kafka and Robert Walser, animators Walerian Borowczyk and Jan Lenica, puppeteers Wladyslaw Starewicz and Richard Teschner, and composers Leoš Janácek, Zdenek Liška, and Leszek Jankowski among their influences. They were born and raised in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and studied at Philadelphia College of Art (now The University of the Arts) before moving to London in the 1970s to attend the Royal College of Art, where they made their first film.
Since 1979, they have produced over 30 animated works, including the critically acclaimed Street of Crocodiles, an adaptation of the Bruno Schulz novel by the same name, hailed by Terry Gilliam as “one of the top ten best animated films of all time.” The Quays’ body of work also includes three feature films: The Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream People Call Human Life (1995), PianoTuner of EarthQuakes (2006), and Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass, an adaptation of another Schulz text, which is in pre-production. Currently, the Quays are working on an adaptation of a short story by Polish science fiction author Stainislaus Lem. During the past decade, the Quays have also designed numerous stage sets for opera, ballet and theatre productions and their 1998 Tony-nominated set designs for Ionesco’s The Chairs won great acclaim on Broadway.
Dormitorium: An Exhibition of Film Décors by the Quay Bros. was organized by the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, where it is now on view through April 9. Following its presentation at Parsons, the exhibition will travel to Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia this fall.