Quay Brothers

Selections from Phantom Museums

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Featuring selections from the Quay Brothers’ compendium of short films, Phantom Museums spans their 30-year career. Renowned for their unparalleled contributions to the field of puppet film, identical twins Stephen and Timothy Quay combine visual, literary, musical, and philosophical influences with a singular sensibility. Inspired by the films of Jan Svankmajer and Jiri Barta, the Quay Brothers bring together the quaintness and delicacy of early animation with painstakingly hand assembled sets in their films.


  • Street of Crocodiles - 1986, 20:32 min.
  • The Cabinet of Jan Svankmajer - 1984, 14:12 min.
  • Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies - 1987, 14:29 min.
  • The Comb (From the Museum of Sleep) - 1990, 18:04 min.
  • Still Nacht IV - 1994, 3:56 min.
  • In Absentia - 2000, 19:17 min.

Shadow Play is a series of films that tread nimbly between reality and illusion, acknowledging the artificial nature of cinema. Referencing the tradition of shadow puppetry, the origins of cinema in phantasmagoria, and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, each film draws on the metaphors of light as reality and shadow as artifice.

In Plato’s The Republic, the allegory of the cave illustrates the difference between truth and illusion. Many writers have noted that Allegory of the Cave (written c. 360 BCE), bears great resemblance to the contemporary movie theater.

Emily Berçir Zimmerman

Identical twins Stephen and Timothy Quay are Philadelphia-born, London-based masters of stop-motion puppet animation and live-action film. Collaborating since 1969, their work has been deeply influential in the field of puppet film. They attended art school together at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and at the Royal College of Art in London in the late 1960s. After moving to London, they made their first short animated films: Der der Loop Loop; Il Duetto; and Palace in Flames. Their most famous film, Street of Crocodiles (1986), is a 21-minute animation based on a short novel by Bruno Schulz.

The work of the Quay Brothers has also appeared in advertising and music videos, most notably the music video for Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer. The Brothers Quay are the recipients of the 1998 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design for their work on the play The Chairs. Stephen and Timothy Quay are both professors of animated film at the European Graduate School in Switzerland.

Quay Brothers
Running Time: 90 minutes
April 18, 2013, 7:30PM
Return to Shadow Play

EMPAC 2012-2013 presentations, residencies, and commissions are made possible by continuous support from the Jaffe Fund for Experimental Media and Performing Arts. Additional project support by the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the New York State Council for the Arts; Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts; Arts Council Norway, Fond for Lyd og Bilde, and Fond for Utøvende Kunstner.

National Endowment for the Arts
NEFA - New England Foundation for the Arts
National Science Foundation
State of the Arts - NYSCA