In some ways, Eric Dyer’s work is unlike anything else on the gallery scene today. In his latest exhibition, “Copenhagen Cycles,” at New York’s Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, the artist marries some of the art world’s most au courant practices with a throwback to the 19th century, creating an immersive portrait of a city that is entirely Dyer’s own.
The exhibition consists of three main components. The first is a dizzying room of projected videos collaged from the streets of Copenhagen. A street vendor’s hand places a sausage in and out of a bun in an endless cycle; couples bike hand-in-hand through spring gardens; and abstracted bicycle wheels swirl like pinwheels.
It is only upon entering the gallery’s second space that the source of these images become clear. While kaleidoscopic photographs from the city line the walls, 10 unusual devices sit on pedestals in the center, each individually lit and featuring its own pair of blinking 3D glasses. What at first appear to be tiny dioramas in the round, are actually an updated take on the pre-cinematic device of the zoetrope, a spinning optical toy once known as the “Wheel of the Devil” that allowed photographs to be transformed into moving images.
The viewer is invited to press a button and put on the glasses and suddenly the exhibition comes alive. As the platters on which Dyer’s elaborate, handmade photo-collage zoetropes (made from intricately cut inkjet prints pasted to foamboard) begin to speed up, a three-dimensional image comes forward, in which bicyclists appear to be riding down city streets and wind turbines swirl—the very images projected in the previous room, created this time to be viewed in a personal screening for the viewer’s eyes only.
The series began in 2006, when Dyer began riding his bicycle around the city, learning its nooks and crannies by taking videos over the course of eight months. It was originally shown as a film, but it is the zoetrope works that present an immersive vision of the city—and a peek into the filmmaker’s toolbox created by looking back to a largely forgotten technique.