For more than 50 years, Ken Jacobs’s work has inspired the sense of awe and mystery that 19th-century audiences must have felt when confronting motion pictures for the first time. Jacobs’s lifelong project has been the aesthetic, social, and physical critique of projected images. Though he was the subject of a MoMA retrospective in 1996—along with several smaller exhibitions before and since—it is never quite possible to catch up with his prodigious output of ever-inventive visual and aural investigations into the world of images.

In this new century Jacobs has wholeheartedly embraced digital techniques, and his recent works—only some of which are presented here—explore the grain and frames of early films through his mastery of a full range of digital pyrotechnics. The exhibition features some of the freshest short films around, along with a daylong screening of the filmmaker’s no-budget magnum opus Star Spangled to Death, which, with its fierce political punch and Beat whimsy, is as relevant today as it was when it was commenced in 1956. Audiences will also have a full week to catch a screening of Jacobs’s most recent chef d’oeuvre, Return to the Scene of the Crime.

Organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film.

Licensing of MoMA images and videos is handled by Art Resource (North America) and Scala Archives (all other geographic locations). All requests should be addressed directly to those agencies, which supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to