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Total Cinema of Sight and Sound: Godfrey Reggio and Philip Glass

September 26, 2023 – October 04, 2023

The Museum of Modern Art

In over four decades, filmmaker Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass have created a series of mesmerizing visual and sonic experiences, each painstakingly crafted to reflect on the interaction between the natural world and human activities. Koyaanisqatsi (1982), the first of their Qatsi trilogy—which also includes Powaqqatsi (1988) and Naqoyqatsi (2002)—received a rapturous response upon its release and became an instant cult classic. Their image- and sound-saturated experimental works form a continuing philosophical rumination on life on earth, and how it is altered by the forces of technological development and global economics. Poetic, meditative, apocalyptic, and intense, these non-narrative experiments embody a formal rigor in style, structure, and tone, at once cerebral and primordial. Working collaboratively, and largely in tandem, throughout the production process, the two have achieved something rare in cinema: a consummate marriage of sight and sound that weighs both aspects equally, a singular brand of total cinema that has expanded the imagination of the film medium. One cannot think of Reggio’s captivating and visionary images without Glass’s spellbinding and ever-shifting sound.

This retrospective, which includes all of the features the duo has collaborated on, is organized around a weeklong run of their latest work, Once Within a Time (2022), which is screening in its New York premiere. 

Organized by La Frances Hui, Curator, Department of Film. 

Film at MoMA is made possible by CHANEL.

Additional support is provided by the Annual Film Fund. Leadership support for the Annual Film Fund is provided by Debra and Leon D. Black, with major contributions from the Triad Foundation, Inc., The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art, and by Karen and Gary Winnick.

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Koyaanisqatsi. 1982. USA. Directed by Godfrey Reggio. Courtesy Institute for Regional Education (IRE)

Naqoyatsi. 2002. USA. Directed by Godfrey Reggio. Courtesy Institute for Regional Education (IRE)

Powaqqatsi. 1988. USA. Directed by Godfrey Reggio. Courtesy Institute for Regional Education (IRE)

Once within a Time. 2023. USA. Directed by Godfrey Reggio. Courtesy Optic Nerve