Last weekend the wildly popular Jim Henson show at the Museum of the Moving Image officially closed, while an exhibit of a very different sort opened on the floor below it.
“Restless: Films and Other Works by Mircea Cantor” debuted on Saturday with an installation that includes the 11-minute “Tracking Happiness,” screening in the amphitheater of the museum’s second floor through May 6.
The film played on a continuous loop as children and other Jim Henson last-comers climbed up and down the stairs next to the open theater on their way to and from the puppeteer’s exhibit.
In an adjoining room, two videos on TV screens as well as other works by Cantor, a Romanian artist, did little to draw attention away from “Tracking Happiness,” which offered a respite from the activity elsewhere.
In the film, seven women dressed in white gradually come into focus. Walking over a wide expanse of white sand, the women follow each other single file with brooms in hand, each one brushing away the footsteps of the woman in front of her.
Alternating between closeups of the women’s feet and their footprints being brushed away, and wide shots allowing the viewer to see the empty space the women inhabit as they continue seemingly forever on their silent march, the film is quiet and hynoptic, and perfectly suited to the all-white room with curving benches that it’s displayed in.
The two other videos in the exhibit, one featuring a boy saying, “I decided not to save the world” on repeat, and the other showing what could be the same boy trying to cut a stream of water pouring from a faucet with scissors — also on repeat — lack the raw magnetism of “Tracking Happiness.” Elements around the TV sets playing these videos include a drawing of a length of barbed wire stretching across the room’s walls, created with Cantor’s fingerprints, and a mirror with lipstick scrawled across it, called “Unpredictable Future,” made onsite by the artist.
In addition to the second-floor exhibit, different selections of films by Cantor, who won the Marcel Duchamp Prize in Paris in 2011, will screen in the museum’s Bartos Room on the ground floor. Selections rotate every Saturday the exhibit is open, so that from March 3 to March 9, for example, people can view the films “The leash of the dog that was longer than his life” and “Dead Time.” A different selection will begin screening on Saturday, March 10.
The show is a joint effort with the Romanian Cultural Institute, though in a statement issued by the museum, Cantor said simply, “art is my country.”
When: Through May 6, Tues-Thurs 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Fri 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Weekends 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
Where: Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35 Ave., Astoria
Tickets: $12, $9 for seniors and students