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Ernie Gehr: Mechanical Magic

March 15, 2024 – March 23, 2024

The Museum of Modern Art

Although commonly described as one of the most consequential filmmakers in avant-garde cinema and structural film, Ernie Gehr’s body of work defies all categories and definitions. Gehr offers the audience a space animated by manufactured dreams of light, shadows, and motion destined to be inhabited by the curiosity of our senses. Invigorated by an unresolved tension between the camera’s frame and the scope of our imagination, audiences widen their perception of moving things in a place that could be simply called “cinema.” In Gehr’s own words, “The overriding emphasis in my work, be it film, video, or digital, has always been a sense of consciousness: consciousness about being alive and responsive to what is out there, as well as what one is going through internally.”

Gehr’s remarkable inventiveness with immediate resources—a small camera, a lens—takes us back to the experience of cinema’s first audiences and their marvel at the surprising ways in which the Lumière brothers, Méliès, and others framed the world. At the same time, Gehr widens our gaze by bringing together living stories and hidden ghosts of our personal and social history. To witness Ernie Gehr’s moving images is to find a home for our displacement; surrendering to the moving wonders of his films is to renew our purpose as spectators. Ernie Gehr: Mechanical Magic presents recent digital work and 35mm restorations, including world premieres and rarely-screened titles. Each program is followed by a Q&A where the filmmaker discusses his work with a special guest.

Organized by Francisco Valente, Curatorial Assistant, 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 Young Patrons Council of The Museum of Modern Art, and by Karen and Gary Winnick.


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New York Central. 2020. USA. Directed by Ernie Gehr. Courtesy Ernie Gehr.

Along Brighton Beach Avenue (A.K.A. : Untitled: Part One 1981). 1981. USA. Directed by Ernie Gehr. Courtesy Ernie Gehr.

Approposessexstreetmarket. 2018. USA. Directed by Ernie Gehr. Courtesy Ernie Gehr.

Construction Sight. 2021. USA. Directed by Ernie Gehr. Courtesy Ernie Gehr.

Glider. 2001. USA. Directed by Ernie Gehr. Courtesy Ernie Gehr.

Pedestrian Activities. 2023. USA. Directed by Ernie Gehr. Courtesy Ernie Gehr.

Carroll Gardens. 2023. USA. Directed by Ernie Gehr. Courtesy Ernie Gehr.