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Alice Guy, In Part
In March 2022, digital sculptures of gender diverse figures will be juxtaposed against statues of men across the five boroughs of New York City. An interactive map guides viewers to 31 virtual monuments shown in Augmented Reality, while an audio tour tells the stories of each sculpture. Using our smartphone screens, we can reveal the true face of the city. These digital monuments can be viewed from anywhere in the world on our New York City map, launching on March 1st.
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Alice Guy (1873 – 1968) was an early film pioneer. At the turn of the 19th century, the moving image was novel, and no one had yet used the medium to create fiction—until Guy. “Having gone to film school myself,” says artist Chloë Lee, “I was surprised to only learn of her years after I had graduated especially given that she is considered the first narrative filmmaker. It turns out I was not alone.” Today, much of Guy’s legacy has been erased or lost, and historians at the time rarely wrote about her contributions.
Upon the success of her debut short fantasy film “La Fée aux Choux,” or “The Cabbage Fairy,” made in 1896, Alice Guy graduated from her then secretarial duties at Gaumont Studios in Paris. She headed Gaumont’s newly created film production studio and after its subsequent success, she ventured to America to produce and direct the early Hollywood films, including starting her own movie studio. Well before Hollywood was in Hollywood, California, it was located in Fort Lee, New Jersey—the birthplace of several studios, such as Universal. There, she went on to produce over a 1000 works during a career of almost 30 years (1894-1922), many of which are known for their inventive and clever commentaries on social issues at the time, like the gender gap. There are still a handful of films that can be streamed online.
Lee decided to share Guy’s story in connection with a male figure that she admired: Hans Christian Andersen. The connection between the two people focuses on imagination and storytelling—Lee wanted to create an abstract fantastical piece showing Alice Guy at work. This began as a 2D drawing inspired by a photograph of Alice Guy and her cinematographer on the set of The Life of Christ, in Fontainebleau, France, in 1906 and the garden scene in “The Cabbage Fairy.”