The Quay Brothers’ Universum
From 15 December 2013 to 9 March 2014, EYE presented a major exhibition of the extraordinary work of the Quay Brothers. These American identical twins have built up an enigmatic and dark body of work that includes stop-motion animation, drawings, and performing arts productions.
This exhibition showed their films amidst many of their special sources of inspiration, including artefacts such as scientific collections, curiosity cabinets, and early-twentieth-century drawings by psychiatric patients.
The Brothers Quay’s universe is filled with strange and curious scenarios about life and death. Their films are packed with literary references, such as Street of Crocodiles (1986), which was chosen by Terry Gilliam as one of the ten best animated films of all time.
The exhibition presented the universe of the Quay Brothers and, in addition to their films, also featured small installations and wonderful diorama boxes, called Dormitorium, which contain the sets they use to make their films. These sets are often meticulously assembled out of used and time-worn objects.
The Brothers have a keen interest in Central and Eastern European culture from the last century: Polish, Czech and Russian filmmakers such as Walerian Borowczyk, Ladislas Starewicz and Jan Švankmajer, as well as writers such as Franz Kafka, Bruno Schulz and Swiss writer Robert Walser.
Since 1979, the Quay Brothers have integrated all of these influences into their own animated films, for which they design all the sets, create the characters, make the figures and develop their semi-mechanical movements, do the lighting, camera work, and editing – in sum: they do it all. They collaborated with choreographers and composers to develop theatre, dance and opera projects.
about the exhibition
EYE is the first museum in Europe that devoted extensive attention to the Quay’s universe. Besides their short films and film fragments, the exhibit also featured their “Black Drawings”, beautiful sculptural sets and other material from the Quay’s studio. The exhibition showed not only the work of the Quay Brothers, it also drew upon their sources of inspiration from film, literature, music, and graphic design.
Medical devices were exhibited next to Polish posters, old Eastern-European animated films, drawings by Bruno Schulz and the mentally ill, and objects from Sir Henry Wellcome of London’s anatomy and pathology collection. In addition to artefacts from scientific collections and curiosity cabinets, literary documents were also on display.