In this video a 360-degree continuously flowing single take reveals the scene that is forever frozen in Diego Velázquez's well-known painting Las Meninas of 1656. The work depicts the young princess of Spain—the Infanta—and her companions with Velázquez himself, shown painting, in the Salon of the Alcázar in the Palace of the Hapsburgs. The faint images of King Philip IV and his wife, Mariana of Austria, are reflected in a mirror at the back of the room. The camera's brilliantly choreographed gaze discovers these figures as well as the action beyond the canvas. The king and queen are not only replicated in the mirror but preside over the scene, revealing what Velázquez and the Infanta, in the painting, appear to focus on outside the image (a space that has been the subject of critical debate for over 350 years).
Of the relationship between 89 Seconds at Alcázar and Velázquez's painting, Sussman has written, "You look at that painting and you think, 'This is the first cinema verité moment.' It has the feeling of a snapshot, as if the Infanta could walk out and come back again. And you think, if this is a film still, then there is a still that came before, and one that came after. It was that simple. There's no big conceptual sort of rumination other than that."
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art , p. 251.