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Racing through time on a Brooklyn Bridge trolley ride in 1899

Some of the earliest documentary films were travelogues that offered experiences of places that viewers might never get to visit for themselves. In Outerborough, the US filmmaker and artist Bill Morrison repurposes and reimagines an early example of the genre – Across the Brooklyn Bridge (1899) – to give ‘modern audiences [a] similarly rarefied view we can no longer experience’. As Morrison notes in describing his work: ‘Not only has the cityscape changed over the past century, but also, no train crosses the bridge anymore, and no vehicle can travel over on its median as that trolley did. The unique central perspective lends itself to abstraction and time travel: the journey from one side of the East River to the other becoming a unit of both time and space…’ Commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York for its 2005 reopening, the short film features a restored version and the original film, side by side. Juxtaposing the two frames and adding a frenetic, original score that yields an even greater sense of momentum, Morrison transforms the footage into something kinetic and enigmatic – an experiment in movement as a way of experiencing history.

Director: Bill Morrison

Composer: Todd Reynolds

10 April 2018

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