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A Curious Alliance: The Role of Art in a Science Museum

Among the many things that distinguish the Exploratorium from most other science museums is its Artist-in-Residence Program, and its use of art pieces on the exhibit floor. This publication provides a historical and practical view of how this alliance between art and science came about at the Exploratorium, and describes the values derived by both the artists and the institution and the philosophical underpinnings that give the program its strength. This book is a component of a larger project partially funded by the National Science Foundation. Recognizing the importance of the arts at the Exploratorium arid the potential for similar programs at other museums, we have explored the subject of how art can be incorporated into a science museum from a variety of perspectives. We hope that this publication will become a tool for other science museums who want to include artists in their exhibit development process, a tool that can help establish a conceptual base for using the insights and methods of artists in their programs. Goery Delacote, Executive Director


















Cover: Two Opposing Streams of Water (proposal/prototype), Bruce Miner, 1975.


ations to make fundamental ideas, and in particular ideas concerning natural phenomena, accessible and compelling to a broad range of people. The,ir art forms and media range from poetry and writing to multimedia performances and theatrical productions, from animated filmmaking to dance productions and performances exploring cultural connections. They screen non-commercial films, present national and international film festivals, and display paintings, installations, and exhibits. The Exploratorium's Artist-In-Residence Programs provide a place for artists to work within the museum. Each year we commission a number of artists whose interests complement ours. They participate in a collaborative research and development process resulting in the creation of new works for the exhibit floor, and new film and performance experiences for the public. Working in our shops with our creative staff, these artists add to and enhance the creative atmosphere of the place. "Exploration, experimentation and discovery" have been touchstones since the Exploratorium opened its doors in 1969. These are words that best describe the activities of the staff and the artists who have built the more than 650 exhibits now on display. The ongoing scientific process of inquiry and the ongoing artistic process of inquiry at the Exploratorium provide the possibility of new personal discoveries from many different viewpoints. We have found that the synthesis of these processes fosters the development of artworks and exhibits that lead to a personal sense of how each individual is connected to the whole.

an Francisco's Exploratorium is a museum housing over 650 interactive exhibits and artworks that provide learning experiences about natural phenomena and human perception. It is a creative environment where visitors can explore on their own terms, linger where they choose, and experiment as they please. Perception is the underlying theme of the Exploratorium because how we see, hear, feel, smell, and otherwise sense the universe determines what we know about it. The tools available to visitors at the Exploratorium include scientific instruments and experiments, mathematics, language, music, and art. Developing exhibits from a variety of disciplines sustains a creative atmosphere, an interactive setting that is the perfect place to make discoveries and realize new ideas. Frank Oppenheimer, the museum's founder, did not intend the Exploratorium to be unconventional, but he wanted to start a museum that reflected his notion that people's perceptions and feelings were as much a part of the scientific process as were the physical aspects of the discipline. He also wanted to create a place where people could learn through personal experience. It was this humanistic and, at the time, unconventional philosophy that also provided an environment where artists could have a significant impact on the development of a science museum. By basing the core exhibitry on perception, and by linking broadly diverse disciplines, the Exploratorium provides fertile ground for peo-' pie to learn about the natural world. At the same time, the exhibits demonstrate that human perception is a logical and rich meeting place for science and art. Since 1969, we have pioneered the role of the museum as an active learning center, developing interactive exhibits, training teachers, presenting performances, films, lectures, demonstrations, and workshops, and creating publications and videotapes to better communicate the issues that affect society. We have a long and effective tradition of bringing together people from different disciplines. Artists who work here are trained in the use of analogy and metaphor, deftly applying their skills of whimsy, humor, and visual associ-

A Curious Alliance provides a historical and

practical view of how this syntheSiS between art and science came about at the Exploratorium. It describes the values derived by both the artists and the institution and the philosophical underpinnings that give the Artist-in-Residence Program its strength.

Peter Richards is a public artist and has been Director of the Arts Programs at the Exploratorium since 1974. He has created numerous works in collaboration with other artists, including the San Francisco Marina's renowned Wave Organ, with George Gonzales.



nology. Frank then joined forces with participants of the Experiments in Art and Technology (E.AT.) Program and with members of the San Francisco Music Conservatory, who produced experimental sound- and light-works at night. These performances were intentionally designed to make a lot of noise and draw a crowd, and they worked beautifully. The Exploratorium qUickly gained a reputation for experimental work and became a magnet for local artists. From the beginning, Frank Oppenheimer believed that art needed to be an integral part of the Exploratorium's exhibitry. Within a year of the Exploratorium's "opening," artist Bob Miller came to demonstrate his experiments with light and shadows. Out of his conversation with Frank came the first artwork to be commissioned by the Exploratorium-Sun Painting (described on page 13). Twenty-five years later, Bob's piece remains one of the most successful ever created at the museum. It accomplishes the difficult task of being both a model science exhibit and a consummate work of art. In 1971, artist Peter Richards was hired as an exhibit builder, one of the first artists to navigate a shop culture dominated by an anarchic and challenging group of physicists, engineers, electricians, woodworkers, and machinists. In 1974, Brian O'Dougherty at the National Endowment for the Arts (N.E.A) suggested that Frank write a proposal to fund an Artist-in-Residence (AI.R.) Program, and Pete became the new program's director. When Pete began administering the AI.R. Program, a rather feisty shop tech and avowed art skeptic named Joe Ansel was asked to take over the position of artists' mentor. Fortunately for the history of the program, he accepted. Just as fortunate for the program was that Doug Hollis, then a young, unknown artist from Berkeley, became one of the earliest official resident artists.

The History of the Program

doors opened at the Exploratorium in August of 1969 because Frank Oppenheimer neglected to lock them after he entered one morning. When a curious visitor aCcidentally wandered in and began looking at the (then) very sparse exhibits, Frank commented, "I guess we're open." Frank began the experiment in the Palace of Fine Arts building as a collaboration of three-himself, his wife Jackie, and his son Michael. He needed to conquer this vast interior quickly and make it at least appear to be a science museum to attract a public and funders. The very first interactive exhibits were produced with donated shop equipment and included models that occupied a lot of floor space-like the rocket capsules that Frank convinced NASA to contribute. This accomplished, he gained the momentum to create the real museum-filled with hands-on exhibits-that within a few years would become the archetype for interactive science museums. Faced with the task of drawing attention to an architectural relic in an outlying neighborhood of San Francisco, he used tactics as ingenious as the Pope's invention of religious parades to call attention to the Vatican when it lay outside the walls of central Rome-he devised the scientific equivalent of the pageant. In 1969, Frank agreed to exhibit

Doug worked closely with Frank Oppenheimer on a project to build an Aeolian harp, learning the investigative tools of working through problems in a scientific way. Joe and Doug also developed a close working relationship; Doug's artistic sensibilities influenced Joe's nuts-and-bolts, task-oriented approach, and Joe taught the artist skills like welding and precision metalworking. The relationship between these three was handand-glove, becoming a paradigm for the successful artist-scientist collaboration. It legitimized the program and more importantly,

Cybernetic Serendipity. Originating in London,

this was a show of technologically generated art curiosities. It was the first public exhibition to link art, science, and electronic tech-

further integrated the Exploratorium's art and science cultures. As with every activity in the museum, the AI.R. Program was the result of many influences, and because of this collaborative process, was born almost complete in the museum's first years. Since 1974, Pete Richards has qUietly given a home to that rare artist who, like Bob Miller and Doug Hollis, actively seeks out the rigors and technicalities of science rather than recoiling from them. Pete invites four to six artists a year to come to the Exploratorium and produce works of art which inspire the discovery of subtle connections that can be made between the nature of art and science. The artists have the opportunity to use a sophisticated electronics and machine shop, and to work with a staff that is fascinated by both aesthetic and technical problem solving. The relationship between mentor and artist has, from the beginning, been spontaneously determined by the mix of the individuals involved. The process for developing each project is a little more well defined, although it, too, varies with each individual artist. After the artist has presented existing work and ideas for a project to various oversight committees, there is an experimental phase, resulting in a working prototype of the piece. The artist may discuss concepts with staff scientists, explore methods, techniques, and materials with technicians in the shop, and test and sometimes radically transform or even abandon his or her original idea. The collaborative process with the staff continues during the construction phase, in which the full-size artwork is built. The public joins the mix during the shakedown phase, when the finished piece is installed on the museum floor. As Pete Richards points out, the criteria for a successful Exploratorium exhibit includes "whether it will work, whether it will last, and whether it will stand up to heavy use by children." The AI.R. Program functions not so much as a studio, but as a laboratory for artistic investigations. The program has evolved as new types of problems have been attempted and personnel has changed. But the main goal is identical to the mission set out in the museum's first days: to provide artists with the chance to use the shop with its rich human and mechanical resources; to explore the unique opportunity for expert scientific instruction, construction, and the

collaborative investigation of the artist's vision; and to provide new exhibits for the museum 's collection. Frank Oppenheimer compared both the museum as a whole and an individual exhibit to a play or a musical composition. He wrote: "A tension is built up by something in the exhibit that elicits curiosity or an interesting task or a lovely effect, then the tension is resolved as the result of an aesthetic or intellectual payoff." It is this aesthetic philosophy that in fact presides over every exhibit, over every note struck in the scientific and artistic symphony that reverberates in the cavernous space of the Palace of Fine Arts. It is important to remember that the Exploratorium is a very public place, and that its artworks occupy a unique niche of public art. As a fully defined genre, public art had its beginnings in the seventies, evolving through the eighties, and

has entered yet another phase in recent years. From the beginning, public art has been driven by the dual impulses of urban renewal and artists' separation from the art-for-art'ssake dogmatism that had alienated the general public for decades. This type of technological and science-related experimentation has remained largely tangential to the main course of the art world, and only recently is it beginning to receive widespread attention. The Exploratorium's Artist-in-Residence Program has evolved, meanwhile, on its own independent and somewhat idiosyncratic track. It has often seemed virtually invisible to some of the art world because its works have been "camouflaged" as science exhibits. Only in today's climate of technological explosion and acknowledged scientific influence in the cultural sphere are the works of Exploratorium artists coming to the attention of the art world, and gaining the long overdue recognition they deserve. The Exploratorium's artists practice an art/science synthesis that avoids the limited


[P] indicates that this project is a permanent exhibit on the floor of the ExploralOrium. The other projects are either in storage, have been dismantled, or were tempo rary installations.

TACTILE TREE RICHARD REGISTER (1974) Tactile 'l1'ee was a study in tactile sensations-texture, hot and cold, cool and moist, mists, moving air and radiant heat-presented as components of a large ferrocement tree with truncated branches.

QUIET LIGHTNING BILL PARKER (1974) [PJ Quiet Ugbln ing uses high voltage to produce a violent (but quiet) li ghtning storm in a glass sphere. Its co lors are those of fire-mostly reds and oranges-with violets for contrast. The gas discharge is modi fied by the hands and produces an almost X-ray-like pattern. A.M. LIGHTNING P.L.B.B. BILL PARKER (1974) [PJ A.M. Ligbtning, P.L.B.B. is a sculptured fiberglass and wood base which supports blue lightning in a glass tube. The lightning "bolt" is composed of slowly moving beads of blue li ght; touching the tube causes distinct changes and interruptions of the flow of li ghtning. CASTLE RUTH ASAWA (1974) Ruth Asawa conducted several dayand week-long sessions in the Exploratorium during which she and groups of young people made comp lex geometric structu res with empty milk cartons. In addition, she made two beautiful panels of folded paper with black-and-white patterns .


... JUPITER FLYBY GEORGE BOLLING (1974) Video artist George Bolling presented a real-time broadcast for the five days that the Piol/eel' XI satel lite approached and orbited the planet Jupiter. As events unfolded , the artist, who was located at NASA's command center, fed information to the Exp lorato rium via a special microwave link, where it was presented on large-screen video monitors. FOREFRONT READINGS: THE LANGUAGE OF POETRY AND SCIENCE MURIEL RUCKEYSER (1975) Poet Muriel Ruckeyser spent two months at the Exploratorium,

perspective endemic to much of today's technomania. These creators are using low-tech as well as high-tech mechanical and computer means to make art that concerns music, weather systems, erosion patterns, mathematics, water currents, wave motion, light, and color. The pedagogical orientation, far from being too didactic, enriches the works, adding another layer of interest and cultural significance. Although most of the AI.R. Program's art has been out of the mainstream of the art world, Doug Hollis points out that the AI.R.'s artists have served as emissaries to the community at large. They have caused a ripple effect over the years, disseminating the Exploratorium's attitudes, interests, methods, and philosophies wherever they go. The museum itself has been one of the strongest influences on artmaking in the Bay Area, equal to any of the private or public art schools. It has become as much a resource for the arts as for the science community- locally, nationally, even internationally. This dual nature is at the core of the history of the AI.R. Program. It is a unique cultural and public program-one that sets out to reveal the inexplicable, the metaphoric, and the symbolic wonders that bridge the extraordinary space between art and science.

interest, excitement, curiosity, and a willingness to engage, free of the normal day-to-day business that commonly inhibits extensive dialog about the artist's ideas and work. Anna compared her time at the Exploratorium to the time of a traveler who is free of commitments, free from preconceptions of the foreign places she is traveling through, and open to simply experiencing for experience's sake. It was a time to play, a time for development and for ideas to condense. For her that was the greatest gift of the program. The Exploratorium's Artist-in-Residence Program is unique among the many types of residencies artists have to choose from. Over the years, the program has defined a philosophy that closely links art to science in a number of ways. Because of its museum setting, the program has forged close ties with the practices and problems of public art. Framed by the philosophy of science, and by the requirements of

The Philosophy of the Program

In anthropology, the term "going native" is applied to an anthropologist who abandons all pretense to objective investigation into a culture other than his own, and instead becomes indistinguishable from the "native" population he came to study. The anthropologist who has gone native is judged a failure by the scientific community and is shorn of all credibility. By exactly the opposite logic, the more an Exploratorium artist "goes native," the more he or she is considered a successful resident. As the artist becomes immersed in the Exploratorium's culture, he or she is judged a genuine member of the museum's society. Jim Pomeroy, an early resident, once said, "by becoming a resident at the Exploratorium, one belongs for life." Artist Anna Murch described her residency as recreating the "pure" experience of artmaking normally encountered only while studying art in school. It provided discussion for its own sake, and in that sense, generated effectively communicating with the public, the AI.R. Program has developed an unusual set of methods and goals: The creation of every piece is a collaborative venture, closer to the team method of designing buildings than to the solitary working style typical of most artists. Artists within the program assume a scientific attitude by adopting the methods and standards of science. They investigate their problems by developing hypotheses, building prototypes, and testing them. The museum context requires that each work produced by these artists communicates successfully to as large a cross-section of the general public as possible, and that each relates, in a significant way, to current interests.

contributing to our graphics, and formulating plans for an exhibit section dealing with the perception of meaning in language. She also organized a series of twelve readings in which both a poet and a scientist read their work, which was followed by very penetrating discussions about the ways in which language can convey imagery, experience, and message.

FORMS IN MOTION DIANNE STOCKLER (1976) This animated film is composed of moving geometric figures, lines, and fluidly evolving shapes which are projected into a large, smoke-filled glass chamber. The twodimensional images of the film are seen as moving threedimensional figures , thus integrating cinema and sculpture. DRUM STEPHAN VON HUENE AND JAMES TENNEY (1976) This 5-foot-diameter Plexiglas drum has 32 pneumatically actuated ham mers mounted around its rim . They are controlled by a microcomputer which receives its instructions from a large rotating disc that contains musical compositions which are read by a light sensor. Composer James Tenney wrote three percussion pieces for the project. AEOLIAN HARP DOUGLAS HOLLIS (1977) [Pj Named after Aeolis, the Greek goddess of wind, this wind-activated acoustic sculpture is mounted on the roof of the Exploratorium. The sounds produced by the wind blowing across the choir of strin gs are transmitted mechano-acoustically to speakers located just above the north entrance of the building . PROFESSOR PULFRICH'S UNIVERSE GERALD MARKS (1977) [Pj This piece is a whimsical shadow environment which houses several motorized mobiles and a large metronome. With a dimming glass over one eye, visitors can observe the rotating shadows which seem-quite arbitrarily- to reverse their motion. PAINTING IN PROGRESS GUSTAVO RIVERA AND GRADY MCDONALD (1978) These two painters used the Exploratorium as a studio to demonstrate to the public how the work of a painter evolves over an extended period of time. The concl usion of this project was celebrated with a large showing of paintings in our special exhibition area.




Producing works of art for the AI.R. Program, like producing scier:lce exhibits, is a collective process. Some of the staff have been involved with the museum since its beginning, that is, for almost twenty-five years. The reservoir of experience accumu-

Artist as Experimenter
The Exploratorium artist is a unique blend of the experimental investigator and maker of well-crafted objects. This artist follows a two-fold path. The first path leads toward playful expression of natural phenomena, such as the way light reflects or diffracts. Perhaps the investigator is fascinated by the chaotic patterns of fluid motion in water or cloud formations. Or perhaps inspiration leads toward bending the science of sound toward a whimsical musical performance using, for instance, blow torches against metal sheets. The second path then leads to discussions between the artist and members of the Exploratorium staff. What is the best way to harness these phenomena? What are the technical skills necessary to build a work that is interactive, and yet retains its autonomy as a work of art? The piece that results is less of an object-a sculpture or painting-than a site meant to orchestrate a particular experience or event. The works developed and exhibited in the AI.R, Program are an intersection between art and science; the two are not easily separated, especially during the conceptual stage. Artists, physicists, and engineers come to share both scientific and artistic methods, attitudes, and vocabulary. Both types of inquiry are sources of inspiration here, and people work together to focus their efforts on bringing to light the beauty, mystery, simplicity, or complexity of the natural world. As they work, the bOl}ndaries between art and science blur.

lated during a quarter of a century runs deep, and stores the lessons learned from both the failed and successful projects. Individual artists bring their own experiences to the mix, and the AI.R. Program recruits those from whom it can learn as well as those it can teach. As Nick Bertoni, a former artistin-residence and the current project manager for the AI.R. Program says, "we are growing ourselves as we encourage the artists to grow." A word one hears often at the museum to describe the interaction between the artist and the rest of the staff is "co-creation." It is a process, not a product, and as intangible and shifting as cloud formations . Its medium consists of dialogs among many people and extensive experimentation. Nick describes the development of a project as the interaction between two opposing types of thought processes-the more goal-oriented, or linear, step-by-step approach, typical of engineering, and the more open, nonlinear, associative and intuitive approach common to the artistic process. Each approach puts demands for quality on the other. The knowledge taken for granted by the scientist or engineer may assume a very different meaning in the mind of the artist; the artist's working style may reveal something that the scientist had not considered before and lead to a new line of inquiry. The artist at the Exploratorium does not conform to the cliche of the genius, striving alone; he or she bows to the pragmatic conditions of museum life and to attaining the ' highest possible clarity in the work. This type of artist learns to take the scientific attitude completely to heart and must continually monitor the work against the demands of the 'public.

A~ t " a s, Pro tot y pi n 9

What ,makes the AI.R. process unique is its ,close similarity to the protocol of scientific inquiry-each step along the path to the completed work is a hypothesis to be tested, accepted, rejected, or reformulated. It is the raising of this formal testing procedure to the level of a deliberately conscious activity that distinguishes the art process at the Exploratorium from the ways in ~hich art is usually made. Just as the sharing of ideas and skills governs the successful collaboration between artist and scientist, the process of prototyping governs the actual making of the artwork. A wonderful presentation of the philosophy and practice of prototyping is contained in another Exploratorium publication, Working

Prototypes, a collection of Frank Oppenheimer's


LIGHTWEIGHT PHANTOMS JIM POMEROY (1978) Using a home-built stereoscope based on the 1832 invention by physicist Charles Wheatstone, coupled with a series of double-image slide projections, the artist's images are cast upon a screen by a carousel projector. Viewed with Polaroid glasses (Pomeroy's own modification to Wheatstone's original system), one is presented with the illusion of solid three-dimensional images. CLASSROOM WINDOW: DREAM CHART OF FOUR GONE CONCLUSIONS RICHARD POSNER (1978) [P] This work consists of four leaded glass panels installed in the northeast section of the classroom building. The windows are a surreal juxtaposition of dream imagery, cu ltural history, and scientific phenomena, which refer to and complement exhibits on the museum floor . While looking at the images, the viewer can simultaneously see into the classroom (through large sections of clear glass) as well as see his or her own reflection (through the use of mirrors). PERFORMANCES KIRK ROBERTS (1978 - 79) Kirk Roberts used theatrical techniques to present his unique ideas and observations about perception and natural phenomena. 71le Search Jar Shcldowman, a shadow play, and other performances were shown to students in our School- In-TheExploratorium (SITE) program. After each performance the students experi mented with the props and staged their own versions of the show.

VORTEX DOUGLAS HOLLIS (1979) [PJ This self-renewing vortex is formed by water pumped from the bottom of a 6-foot-high , 2-foot-diameter PleXiglas cylinder and then returned to the top at a high rate of speed. The resu lting swi rl forms a beautiful whirlpool which can reach all the way to the bottom of the cyl inder or disappear completely at the whim of the visitor. THE MUSICAL JET PATRICK READY (1979) This project was based on a book by C. V. Boys, who wrote about late 19th-



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concerning trans-


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water. An installation was created consisting of a large pool of water, speaker horns, and jets of water through which visi tors transm itted theiI' voices.

As Frank showed, a prototype is a first rough draft of an exhibit, usually made from inexpensive, readily acquired materials, assembled in qUick-and-easy fashion simply to test an idea with the least amount of effort. Prototypes usually evolve toward more and more refined stages, until the bugs and kinks have been worked out-or the idea is abandoned. The exhibits that become part of the museum's permanent collection are the most refined and successful prototypes. Not all prototypes work-at least not the way the artist may have originally intended. But science is rife with anecdotes about "accidental discoveries," and artistic "errors" have often been as enlightening as successes. It is in the ability to recognize when accidents and errors are significant-an ability that no method or principle or technique guarantees-that aesthetic decisionmaking is most apparent. It is a kind of judgment, an ability to make decisions and choices based on intuition. While everybody "knows" what intuition is, it is difficult to define. It has something to do with refined observation, long experience with the subject, a facile handling of theory and practice, a gift for being in the right place at the right time, an acceptance of failures, and a knack for being providentially accident prone. The most successful AI.R. pieces are a result of the artist and scientist working together, following their intuition about what will work, and then trying it out. During the prototyping phase, artist and scientist engage in a dynamic interchange between theory and practice. This interchange is governed by what many scientists would call experimentation, and many artists, free imaginative play. In either field, it is an aesthetic process. When art and science come together, new findings emerge that would never appear if one or the other were absent.

playful exploration. Rather than explaining the phenomena, the scientific component deepens the visitor's experience of the often hidden dimensions of the natural world. The artistic frames the scientific with delight, cultural commentary, or metaphor. Though some visitors may have a different experience of the art at the Exploratorium than they do of the science, the two disciplines are tightly interwoven; in some cases the differences dissolve completely. Together, they create an environment in which nature's exquisite poetry is revealed and can be understood. It is just this alliance of art and science that makes the works produced by the AI.R. Program such effective means of education. The Exploratorium's teacher development programs use both scientists and artists to demonstrate concepts, and many of the classroom exhibits are scaled-down versions of works developed by AI.R. artists. The coherence of the museum's many exhibits is modeled on the unity of nature itself. While exhibits are loosely organized under the categories of Electricity and Magnetism, Color and Light, Waves and Motion, etc., paths organized by a common theme can be traced from section to section. Artworks are not in a section by themselves, but are distributed through each area. Such interrelationship and unity demonstrates the museum's mission statement:

Both art and science are needed to fully understand nature and its effeas On people. The inclusion of art is, therefore, not a whim, nor simply the interest of an eccentric breed of artist, but a necessity.
The claim is a strong one: that art and science do indeed form an inseparable parallelism, each extending and elucidating the meaning of the other.

Art Content-Science Content

Both the science exhibits and artworks

The Science Exhibit and the Artwork in Context

At the Exploratorium, the artworks and scientific exhibits collaborate in the task of engaging the audience. While many of the art pieces cannot be completely explained scientifically, they draw the museum-goer into an inquisitive frame of mind. In a similar way, the science exhibits prepare the participant for a deeper understanding of the artworks by creating a curious attitude that bridges the gap between rigorous inquiry and

take the visitor on an excursion through perceptual, conceptual, and aesthetic experiences. In this very interactive environment, visitors may read texts, manipulate exhibit apparatus, concentrate on the phenomena, and assimilate new concepts and ways of understanding them. In this setting, the artworks can provide a change of pace, a change of perspective, or a different kind of sensory experience meant to evoke amazement, delight, and curiosity. The artworks do not try to explain the nat-

WARD flEMING (1980) [P] Pin Screen is a tactile sculpture which consists of special straight pins hung through a four-foot square of finely perforated metal screen. The pins reflect light from colored lamps mounted overhead. As visitors move their hands across the dangling pins, the path changes colors as the pins reflect the light from the lamps.


EO TANNENBAUM (19BD) [P] Discernibility is an interactive video sculpture that allows people to manipulate images of themselves. B y altering the gray levels, or by stretching their own video portraits, they can do experi ments to find out how much information is needed to discern an image.

Sound Cotumn is a musical instru-

ment whose resonatin g chamber is a 60-foo t-hi gh room in a column of the rotunda of the Palace of Fine Arts. Six polished aluminum bars are mounted on a stand in the room. W hen struck with a mallet, the bars vibrate, interactin g with the air column to create a series of deep reson atin g sounds of specific pitch. Aramp inside the col umn lets visitors experience the changes in the resonating sounds at various heights.


RUTH WALLEN (19BO) Ruth Wall en placed wooden sculptures consisting of blocks of wood surrounded by a frame in three sites in San vranci sco B ay. Using macrophotography, these blocks we re examined photographically at monthly intervals to provide a detailed history of the intricate changes in the life forms on small areas of each piece of wood over time. Four perfo rmances included multi-im age slide pro jections of the evolvin g anim al and pl ant life, a narrati ve, and the recorded sounds of Wave Organ (see page 20).


MYA SHONE AND RICK SMITH (1980) Aseries of short videos we re made relatin g the themes and exhibits of the Exploratorium to people's everyday life experiences. The basic properties of wave motion we re examinedducks movin g th ro ugh a pond, boats in the ocean, waves created by rocks in a stream, etc. Three pilots were produced with the .intention of developing a full thirteen-week series of educati onal science videos entitled "Frames of Reference. " The artists were princi pally invo lved in the setup of the fac ility and initi al experimentation with the concept and format of the first tape.

ural world as much as to foster an appreciation of it. They often reflect back on our human condition and its significance, providing a balance between observing and participa~ing

different philosophy, and the piece will take on new meaning. Many Exploratorium artworks are thought-poems wrought of earthly materials, earthly dimensions. They are aesthetic experiences, but also foundations for scientific study. They provide the visitor with the opportunity for a type of scientific reading between the lines, a wondering at the order in nature. They provide the pleasure and the excitement of discovery that, once experienced and understood, bind us more closely to the inner workings of the physical world. The Exploratorium was founded in order to make scientific knowledge available to everyone. Frank Oppenheimer meant, through an educational process, to put the non-scientist in an informed position to better make decisions about everyday life. His hope was to invest everyone with an understanding of science on the one hand, and on the other, to provide a basis for a deep

in the ext.raordinary world of physical

events. One of the best examples of this type of work is Sun Painting, by Bob Miller, which sup rises in a number of ways. A visitor walks right into the piece without realizing it, suddenly caught by rainbow colors dancing over his or her body. The colors of the spectrum are cast on white hanging panels-not in their usual strict geometric pattern of vertical bars, but like the patterns of leaf shadows that shift as the branches move in the wind. As the viewer changes position, the patterns also shift. In searching for the source of this effect, the visitor discovers a vertical arrangement of prisms that fracture sunlight directed to them by a series of mirrors-a path that begins on the museum's roof. Unwittingly, the spectator becomes an actor in this drama, and is engaged in a playful investigation of this exquisitely beautiful event. Other works commissioned by the Exploratorium could be described similarly; but in each case, the difference between a "science exhibit" and an "artwork" depends largely on the visitor's active participation in the experience. The visitor can play with one piece to produce the highest projection of a cloud ring. A few steps farther on, this same visitor might arrange sand to observe and test erosion patterns or direct water-comets as they snake over an inclined glass plane. Beauty and the element of surprise are the hooks that lead the participant to question what's going on. Art, in many cases, simply takes a different point of view from that taken by science. Rather than explaining the spectrum of a rainbow in terms of physics, an artwork might consider how people perceive the same phenomenon. The science exhibits and the artworks complement and complete each other. It is important to remember that this synthesis between artwork and science exhibit takes place in a science museum-an institution that frames its exhibits and their contents within its philosophical orientation. Both the exhibits and the artworks are inseparable from their context. Take a piece out of one museum and put it in another with a


commitment to the phenomena of the natural world, to the environment, and to human life. Against this background, art plays no small role in the Exploratorium's mission. In Frank Oppenheimer's mind, at least, it played a role equal and parallel to that of science. It was this understanding he most wanted to promote--that all facets of the natural world, like the exhibits themselves, interconnect in a unified scheme.

Mark Bartlett was a Writer-in-Residence at the Exploratorium in 1993. His writing has appeared in Artweek, Cameraworks Quarterly, and Art Issues. He curated a show, Color in the Shadows: Bay Area Cyberart, exhibited at Oliver Art Center in Oakland, January-March, 1994.

JIM POMEROY (1981) [P] The ori gin al work (see page 10) was displ aced during the constructi on of the Exploratorium 's mezzanine, providing an opportunity for the artist to reconfi gure the optics and projection system and to add a series of new images.

TO M PETRILLO (1981) [P] These 18 color photographs toy with our assumptions and expectations of the wo rld. One qUickl y accepts the facts presented in the photographs and then becomes astonished to fi nd a paradox ical situation of vision or color. The museum's exhibits we re the basis for the photograp hs and are the lin k between the phenomena and the poetics of the artist's wo rk.

Music Room is a unique multi -pl aye r

computer music system which enables visitors with no previous musical trainin g to participate in an ensemble experience and to compose together. Each person is responsible for a distinct musical part and performs on one of the five touch-sensitive guitars. One controls rh ythm , meter and tempo, pl aying percussion sounds. Asecond pl ays bass lines and coordin ates harmonic movement, while two others di rect harm ony, voicin g, orchestration, and melodic figurati ons. The fifth instrument is capable of pure melodic inventi on.

EO TANNENBAUM (1981) [P] Th is wo rk addresses the poetics of moti on, time and color. Avideo camera picks up head-to-toe movements of a viewer/participant. Asequence of these im ages is stored and displayed on co lor monitors or projected in controlled modes based on ti me and space. The visitor can expl ore ani mated effects-how sequences of im ages create movement. B y displ ayin g sequences Simultaneously, Duchamp-li ke for ms are created .


CHRI STIAN SCHIESS (1981) [P] Kill el ic Ligbl SClltptlll'e consist of two thin , clear glass tubes, one pum ped with mercury argon and the other with neon, producin g both radi ant blue and orange-red li ghts. The sealed gas tubes are independe ntly connected to the shaft of two variable-speed electric motors. V isito rs manipul ate three controls th at vary the rotati onal speed, intensity, and frequency of the movin g light sources, creatin g infinite and subtle visual effects.



tor experiences of awesome forces that in reality would never be so benign. For the Environmental Art show Ned built an ingenious exhibit, Cloud Rings, a fivefoot-diameter concave aluminum dish that sits horizontally at about waist level. Riveted to its top, with a circular opening in its center, is a rubber membrane stretched taut over a flexible skeletal frame. The cavity below fills with mist pumped into it from a humidifier. As the visitor pushes the rubber membrane downward, the mist is compressed, forced to escape through the hole in an eighteen-inch-diameter donut shape, and hurled fifty feet into the shadowy heights above the Exploratorium floor.

Michael Brown's Meanderings

National Science Foundation awarded the A.I.R. Program a grant to support four artists working with environmental systems, resulting in an exhibition that opened at the Exploratorium in the summer of 1993. Each of the artists-sculptors Ned Kahn and Michael Brown, filmmakers Andrej Zdravic and AI Jarnow-built a piece that captured the phenomena of chaotic, indeterminate fluid systems. The artworks allow the visitor to experience exquisitely arranged performances of water in motion-water eroding sandy slopes, a donut-shaped steam ring projected fifty feet into the air, water meandering over its own shadows. scale, bring our attention to what usually goes unnoticed. Michael Brown is able to bring the outside inside, and

consists of an elegant shallow box about 3 x 5 feet by 3 inches deep, mounted horizontally between metal A-frame legs. Spanning the width at one end of the box is a transparent tube drilled with small holes. Water pumped into the tube seeps out onto an inclined, water-repellent glass surface. The visitor is able to vary the incline of the plane, controlling changes of momentum, size, and duration of the water droplets as they stream comet-like into a pool of water at the box's opposite end. Lights focused on the surface create high contrast shadows on the white plane beneath the glass. The contrast of real streamlet to shadow streamlet is a compelling detail , transforming a gleeful physical phenomenon into a resonant shadow play.

Ned Kahn's Cloud Rings

Ned Kahn is an exhibit builder for the Exploratorium and a sort of permanent artist-in-residence. He has completed a number of public art projects and been exhibited all over the United States. His works are Merlin-like forays into immensely instructive play- visitors can leap into a steam tornado, turn a crank to direct wind against dunes, or spin sediment-filled globes to produce spectacular, swirling results. Each of these "sculptures" has the feel of an Oz-like magic ball that provides a window onto stunning, unknown worlds. Through these elegant miniaturizations, Kahn gives the museum visi-

SEEN CLEARLY IN HAZY CONDITIONS DIANNE STOCKLER (1981) A nyo ne watching a film in a movie theater has turned toward the projector and seen the multicolored beams of li ght that shoot ac ross space and eventually land on the screen. D ianne Stockier works with li ght beams such as these to shape, structure, and choreograph her films. The fi lm loop is projected through a large glass chamber filled with smoke, which acts as a three-dimensional screen for the geometric and abstract image ry on the film. The forms seem solid, as though they possess mass and weight, yet they behave in ways that are impossible fo r solid objects. (See page 8.) UNSUNG VOICES JOHN DRI SCOLL (1982) Each of these four related sound sculptures employs ul trasonic Sign als to create instruments that play in response to subtle movements of museum visitors. The physical disturbances caused by the visitors' movements transl ate inaudible ultrasonic signals into distinct and melodic tones that are within the range of human hearing. MAGNETIC FIELD PATTERNS ("PUMPING IRON") HEATHER MCGILL AND STAN AXELROD (1983) [Pj The beauty of magnetic fields is captu red by magnetic fl uids that are excited by a series of electromagnets. The dark, oily fl uid assumes "impossible" shapes in response to the manipu lation of the magnets. LUMEN ILLUSION SCULPTUR E C HRIS TI AN SCH I ESS (1983) [ Pj This work is a companion piece to Kinetic Ligbt (see page 14) . Lumen Illusion explores the illusion of circu Iar motion created by an array of neon and argon tubes. Apparent motion is created by the sequential li ghting of the tubes, arranged in a large circle. The duration of each light flas h, the du ration of the apparent motion (clockwise and counter-clockwise), the interval of time between each fl ash, and the fl as hes (red neon on blue argon fi eld and vice-versa) are controlled by the visitor.

AI Jarnow's Terralorms
AI Jarnow brings the sensibility and technical skills of a seasoned filmmaker and a landscape painter to his exhibit about erosion processes,

Terraforms. The work combines real-time

video, computer interface, erosion phenomena, and the participant, in an assemblage that bridges the gap between rigorous investigation and naive play. A video camera mounted overhead aims at an inclined, sand-filled box. Water pools at the high end, oversaturating the sand. As it moves to the lower end, it simulates a variety of familiar erosion processes such as canyon carving, river meandering, and delta and alluvial fan construction. The event is displayed live in the monitor inset and recorded at the computer terminal. The user can then replay any portion of the event. AI provided the computer with a library containing easily accessed explanations of geological principles, processes, and examples like the Grand Canyon. The participant can browse though this information to understand the event he or she has just created, or investigate subjects of related interest. An open-ended work, Terraforms might best be described as a work site, an experimental laboratory in its own right. The powerful visualization capabilities of film are here used to full advantage; the visitor can freeze the erosion-events at any point, replay them, speed them up, slow them down, zoom in, zoom out. Processes that actually take hours, months, years, or decades are compressed into a timeframe that we can witness in a few moments. Long-term geologic history is translated into the range of human memory. In Jarnow's work, the catastrophic forces that have sculpted the surface of our planet are brought under the control and observation of each visitor, personalizing an awareness of environmental forces. Andrej is able to transform the video installation into a complete experience through a manipulation of scale-enlarging and cropping phenomenal events outside our usual perceptual frame of reference. As the waves appear to flow serially across the screens, rhythmically freezing, slowing, reversing and leaping ahead, they metamorphose-pond becomes river becomes ocean becomes sky. The power of wave movement, from the ripples caused by rain delicately falling on a river's surface to the Pacific waves crashing against the shore, actively engages the visitor in an expectant, heightened awareness. It arouses responses that are both emotional and analytic. The effect is that the setting erases the technology, and what comes forward are the phenomena in all their sensuality and symbolic power. Andrej Zdravic is a filmmaker who has for years made films about environmental phenomena such as wind, water, and light. During his reSidency at the Exploratorium, he built a video installation entitled Water

Andrei Zdravic's Waler Waves

Waves that consists of ten high-resolution

monitors. Arranged horizontally in a shallow arc against a black backdrop, they present an examination of all varieties of water waves. The monitors are not large, but when multiplied by ten, arranged in a darkened setting, separated by half-foot increments and spanning a range beyond the sixty-degree cone of vision, they give the effect of a full-scale cinema screen.


Video Feedback presents images created by a video camera that is aimed at an angle into a video monitor. The system allows the viewer to control and manipul ate the camera's relationship to the monitor as wel l as the f-stop, zoom, and focus of the camera's lens. The black-and-white images pulsate and evo lve as the camera responds to the images that it sends to the mon itor.


The Ligbtstick is an array of blinking li ght-em itting diodes that flash in computer-controlled sequences. The sequences, taken all together, make up whole images, but at any given instant on ly one vertical slice of an image is present. These slices follow each other in such rapid succession that the visitor's eye cannot perceive the blinkin g images when looking directl y at the Ligbtstick. But when his or her eye scans across the Ligblstick, it sees the whole image flash across the room- a strong and surprisi ng effect. W hen the visi tor looks back, it's just a bar of li ght again .

NICK BERTONI AND MAGGI PAYNE (1984) Fiame Speaker is a sound scu lpture whose IO-inch-high gas flam e becomes the medium through which one can speak or play music. lis one approaches the piece, remarkab ly hi gh fidelity music can be heard coming from the flame itself, as the ionized gas of the flam e vibrates to the electrical impulses provided by an enclosed amplifier. B y speaking into a microphone or pl ayin g on a small keyboard, one can control the sounds comin g from the fl ame, and explore the seq uences and dynam ic ranges .


INTERACTIVE ROBOT CLAYTON BAILEY (1984) This robot is a hand-shakin g copper hum anoid constructed of found objects and hand-fabri cated metalwork. It rewards donations with a display of static electri city, fl ashin g li ghts, and thunderclapS- With the intensity of the display proportional to the amount of money donated. PENTAPHONE JONATHAN GLASER (1984) [P] Pelltapbone is a five-sided marimbalike instrument that is comprised of five sets of bars tuned to different registers of the same pentatonic scale. The bars are made of paduk wood, aluminum , magneSium , flame-treated bamboo, and glass. The characteristic timbres of each type of bar and the constant pentatonic scale to which they are tuned allow even untrai ned




fostered the growth of the piece in directions he hadn't imagined.

I started with a vertical piece of glass, then people in the shop came over and kicked around ideas. What happens if you tilt it? What happens if you use lights? What shadows does it make? We discovered, among other things, that if you placed a piece of light-colored material below the surface of the glass and added a pinpoint light source, the water acted as a lens. We played with it and got these beautiful optical effects.
Within a few months, Michael 's sheet of

nlike Minerva, the artworks on the Exploratorium's exhibit floo r do not spring full-grown from the minds of their creators. Each piece undergoes a remarkable process of evolution, from idea to prototype to an exhibit on the museum floor. The Environmental Art exhibition opened at the museum in 1993. It featured four works created by artists working in the Exploratorium's Artist-in-Residence Program. Although the pieces themselves are very different- two involve video and computer technology, the others are wholly mechanical- each underwent a similar process of evolution and co-creation. This process is illustrated by a detailed examination of the creation of Michael Brown's Meanderings and brief examples from the work of the other Environmental Artists.

glass had become a glass-topped table with an elaborate t ilting mechanism, a pump, and a filter. Construction cont inued, but sometimes pushed the limits of Michael's experience.

I thought: Oh no. I've never worked in a machine shop. I've never used that tool. I've never welded before. So I got the chance to learn to weld. I'd go up to someone and say, "How do I do this?" and they'd teach me. All I had to do was ask questions. It was a totally open environment to learn in.


by Michael Brown, 1993 The patterns water makes as it flows down an incline are demonstrated by Meanderings, a 3-foot by 5-foot glass-topped box. Visitors can change the course of the trickles of water with their fingers and watch both the

Meanderings by Michael Brown

The growth of Michael Brown's artwork is very much like its title-Meanderings. From his original idea, the project flowed, branched off, and changed directions as various forces came into play. Before he came to the Exploratorium, Michael said he had been: One of the strengths of the A.I.R. Program is that artists have full use of the resources of the Exploratorium-tools, space, and staff expertise. Like many artists who are used to working on their own, Michael sometimes found the process of cocreation to have its drawbacks as well. Michael Brown and visitor.

streams and the shadows cast on the white surface below the glass.

... doing these fountains, playing with water. I was making wall hangings with water running down, trickling, doing this meandering thing. I had a sheet of copper- highly polished-and the water meandered beautifully. But people wanted to play with it, stick their fingers in it, and the copper patina'd. That was when I started to use glass, because it's so much easier to keep clean.
The Arts Program at the Exploratorium offered Michael a residency to build a piece that was originally conceived as water, fed by copper pipes, running down a sheet of glass. He began constructing a prototype, and discovered that working in the Machine Shop

In the shop, when I'd start to experiment with something, people would stop by and take a look. Everyone felt free to interject their ideas. It was great, because everyone had good ideas, but it was also weird for me. I was making decisions about what I wanted the piece to be, and at the same time I had to figure out what advice to accept, and whether it was okay to reject someone's idea. There's only so much I could do, or it would turn into someone else's piece. A good piece, real interesting, but not mine.

players to conduct engaging musical conversations without fear of playing "wrong notes."

FICKLE ORACLE LEWIS ALQUIST (1986) Fickle Oracle has a vari able focal length parabolic mi rror created by spinning a circular basin of mercury on a turntable. People can vary the mirror's foca l length by making the device spin faster or slower, watching their own image or images of people walkin g pas t go through a remarkable range of distortions. Its sculptured housing is made from vent cowli ngs found at a shipyard. WAVE ORGAN PETER RICHARDS AND GEORGE GONZALES (1986) [PJ Wave Organ , a wave-activated sound sculpture, is located on a nearby jetty and utilizes wave action from the bay to create a symphony of sound that emanates from a series of pipes that reach down into the water. A wo nderfu l collection of granite building materi al th at existed on the site was utilized to create a seri es of sculptured terraces and seating areas. The listening pipes, made of PVC and concrete plaster, extend from the seating areas to the water. The intensity and comp lexity of the wave music is di rectly related to the tides and weather. FRIENDSHIP ACROBATIC TROUPE CARL CHENG (1987) [PJ p,.iendsbip Acrobatic Troupe consists of a large acrylic water tank with air jets mounted in a geometric array at the bottom. Programmed bursts of air create an array of different-shaped bubbles that slowly travel in formation to the surface of the tank. Some of the bubbles are spherical in shape, others look like mushroom caps, and still others are shaped like doughnuts or miniature UFO 's . LIGHT STROKES RICHARD GREENE (1987) [PJ Ligb/ Strokes is a graphic input device which allows visitors to create a full co lor image on a computer screen. The image, which can be printed wi th the help of an Exp lainer, is created by "painting" on a flat Plex iglas surface using onl y ordinary water and tools (brushes, fingers , etc.). The Plexiglas acts as one face of a transparent prism. Avideo camera views that surface from an angle that lets it record the image as it's being created on the screen . These images are digitized and processed in real time to build up a drawing as th e tools are moved alon g the su rface.


Over the year that Michael worked on Meanderings, it grew and changed, first in his concept, then in successive approximations, experiments, and prototypes in the shop, and finally as a "working prototype" on the exhibit floor.

the sand clogged the filter, and the soap scum made it almost impossible to keep the glass clean.

Meanderings is now on display in a section of the museum far away from soap and sand. Every day, visitors walk by the water that flows steadily down the glass. Some of them stop and look, some of them dip a finger into the stream and watch as the path of the water and the shadows change. Most of them learn something about water, about rivers, about the natural world. Like the stream of water, the process of building Meanderings was not a straight line. It zigged and zagged, took some unproductive turns, and a few surprising detours. That is how artists in the AI.R. Program work. The unexpected is part of the process.

I was surprised at how much the piece changed once it was out on the floor. Physically, the first thing we had to do was make it lower, because it was too tall for a lot of kids to reach. But it also grew conceptually, which blew me away. Paul Doherty [a staff physicist] walked up and watched it for a few minutes, then said, "Do you know why it does this? Or this?" He spent an hour explaining why all these things were happening, and it was amazing. I'd thought about the physics of resistance and cohesion, but Paul kept showing me so many other ways to look at the same trickle of water.
Throughout their residencies, the artists in the AI.R. Program work in collaboration with staff scientists, craftspeople, and technicians. Once a piece is out on the exhibit floor, this collaboration extends to the public. Visitors walk by, stop, and play with the piece, or pass it by, uninterested. Some spend a minute or two, others spend hours discovering aspects of the piece the artist may not have planned.

Terralorms by AI Jarnow

One of the main design problems that AI Jarnow had to solve in building Terraforms was the unlikely juxtaposition of loose, wet sand and computer equipment. After weeks of having to dismantle and clean the trackball

by AI Jarnow, 1990, 1993 An unlikely juxtapositioning of a sandbox, video camera, and computer, Terraforms allows the visitor to simulate erosion. Processes that normally occur over months, years, or even decades can be slowed down, speeded up, replayed, and observed in minute detail.

I'd worked with it for months and months, and I thought I knew everything it could do. But within a week, people on the floor were playing with it in ways that never even occurred to me. That's the way things work here. You create something, and even when you think it's "done," it keeps going from there. I made it originally, so I can claim it as mine, but other people are continually reinventing what it can do. Meanderings spent a month out on the
floor, back in the shop for fine-tuning and changes, then on the floor again before it went on display in the two-month-Iong Environmental Art show. The installation in the museum's special exhibition area came with a new set of problems to solve. The video monitor on the piece was designed to allow visitors to observe the process of erosion, but some people found that it could be used for other entertainment. One group of teenagers discovered the automatic timing and recording sequence, and they were able to move the rocks in the sandbox in between shots. They pulled their hands away during each shot, and kept at it long enough to produce a flawless animation of the rocks taking an apparently unassisted walk.

mechanism (which controlled the computer) when it ground to a sandy halt, he replaced it with a more durable joystick, and covered the computer's buttons with plastic shields.

Meanderings was set up near Terraforms,

and just outside the entrance to the show was the Bubble Tray exhibit. Every day there were dozens, hundreds, of kids with sand or soap all over their hands. It was a real logical thing-they rinsed their hands in the nearest running water, which was Meanderings. But

SILAGE BEACH MOWRY BADEN (19B7) [P] Based upon experiments by Richard Gregory, Silage Beach induces the illusion of self motion. One or more persons enter a revolving cylinder whose walls are made of vertical stripes. After staring at the stripes moving past, soon the stripes seem to slow down and stop while at the same time the viewer has the sensation of revolving in the opposite direction. LARIAT CHAIN NORMAN TUCK (1987) [P] Lariat Chain consists of a motordriven bicycle-wheel rim mounted approximately 10 feet above the floor on a tripod with a continuous loop of light chain that fits over the rim. As the wheel turns, the chain runs with it. Left undisturbed, the chain loop revolves in a smooth and flowi ng manner. By tapping or touching the chain, beautiful standing waves and serpentine convolutions can be created along its circuitous flow . LlGHTSHIFT M-2 PETER TEN EAU (1987) [P]
Ugblsbifl M-2 consists of a series of perforated metal screens with holes of different sizes and spacing. By superimposing these screens over each other in various ways, they filter and interfere with the light coming from behind, creating shimmering effects called moire patterns. Taking the form of our architectural frieze , the piece is mounted over the main entrance into the building from the lobby. As people pass by, the images created by the shapes of the screen and their overlapping relationships change, evolve into new shapes, and sometimes disappear.


PANDORA Bill MAXWEll (1988) Pandora was both a fountain and water sculpture located in the lagoon at the Palace of Fine Arts. By means of a time-sequenced display, the foun tain literally "carved " romantic visual images in the water, then displayed these images on , and eventually below, the su rface of the lagoon. As visitors watched, the water began to ripple, and from it emerged graphic watery visions of weeping maidenslike those located at the top of the Palace of Fine Arts colonnade. As the fountain 'S ten-minute cycle continued, the moving water formed a series of terraced planes, which stepped down from the surface of the wate r to form the interior of the box into which the maidens gazed. From the bottom terraces appeared a staircase of water which seemed to continue down to the bOllom of the lagoon. This residency was a joint effort with Capp Street Project in San Francisco.

Water Waves by

during the process of creation. Kahn developed, prototyped, and ultimately discarded one mechanism that produced the rings, and found that his second attempt came with unexpected benefits.

Andrei ldravic
1 t
Andrej Zdravic's multi-monitor video display is the most technologically complex of the four Environmental Art show pieces. For him, a lot of the exhibit-development process involved experimenting with videotape, laserdiscs, and computer synchronization and programming-areas familiar to him in his work as a filmmaker. It was his intent to use the technology as a tool to present the phenomena in an interactive way, but his first installation took him back to the drawing board.

At first I had an elaborate system of cams.

Initially, I thought the exhibit would be interactive in the sense of allowing visitors to sit in the "editor's chair" and manipulate the playback of the waves. There were three buttons-stop, reverse, and a frame-byframe step. I found that, invariably, everyone just plunged for the buttons, not paying much attention to the images on the screen. They'd tweak the buttons for a while, and leave. Meanwhile, everyone who was watching was frustrated because the images were always being interrupted. The presence of the buttons led to an infatuation with the technology itself, negating the learning process I'd hoped the technology would foster. So I removed the controls, and most people-even small childrenbegan to intently observe the waves. Without the buttons, Water Waves became mentally interactive, compelling attention and arousing a curiosity and an appreciation for the energy and beauty of the water.
Cloud Rings by Ned Kahn
Ned Kahn's interest in atmospheric physics and vortices led him to experiment with the creation of vortex rings. He began with a coffee can, a hole punched in its bottom and a rubber membrane stretched over its open end. When he filled it with smoke and thumped on the rubber, a small, perfect smoke ring issued from the hole. The scale of the exhibit grew, from coffee can to garbage can to the five-foot diameter aluminum and rubber structure that now sits on the floor of the Exploratorium. But size was not the only element that evolved

When visitors turned a large crank, the cams would slowly lift a heavy metal plate with a hole in the top over a basin of fog, then let it fall. The impulse drove a fog ring up to the ceiling of the museum. It worked fairly well, except that if people turned the crank too fast the mechanism would make an annoying clunking sound. If they turned it really fast, it didn't work well at all. It dawned on me that I could simply support the metal plate on strong springs, and let people push down on it directly. I built a model that way, and all the technical problems vanished. The human interaction also became much more direct and tactile. The springs allow visitors the opportunity to be more creative and open-ended in the way they use the piece. I've watched people create a slowly rolling ring by pressing gently, then follow it with a quicker, harder push to send another ring up to interact with the first, way up in the heights of the museum.
Each of the four pieces in the Environmental Arts show presented a set of unique problems to be solved by the artists, but all four shared in the process of collaboration and co-creation that characterizes the Exploratorium's Artist-in-Residence Program. Working with scientists, technicians, and craftspeople in the setting of a science museum, the artists create pieces that are the result of free, creative inqUiry- the border where art and science meet.
Water Waves
by Andrej ldravic, 1993 An aluminum dish filled with mist produces an 18-inch diameter donut shape that floats up toward the ceiling of the Exploratorium when a visitor presses on the rubber covering.
Cloud Rings

by Ned Kahn, 1993

Ellen Klages is a writer and editor at the Exploratorium. She is the author of Harbin Hot
Springs: Healing Waters, Sacred Land.

Water Waves is a video installation that consists of ten highresolution monitors showing sequential images of waves and water movement in oceans, rivers, and ponds.

THE GHOST OF AMELIA EARHART BERNI E ZUBROWSK I (1988) [P] Acarefull y lit swath of di aph anous yellow cloth undul ates slowly in a large tank of clear water. Steady streams of bubbles rising from the bottom intercept and interact with the wavin g cloth enhancing the meditative mood of the wo rk. It is located in a quiet, dark area and has seating fo r people to sit and watch. ALIEN VOICES PAUL DEMAR I NIS (1989) [P] Alien V oices initi ally looks and sounds famili ar, but these two sideby-side oak and glass structures, like old-fashioned telephone booths, contain telephones with a difference. Each phone has a touch-control panel with sixteen different options fo r changing one's speech with the help of a computer control. V isitors holding a conversation wi th someone in the neighboring booth can suddenl y vary their voice from a monotone to a th roaty whisper or add a Gregori an Chant line to what they say. By letting us exaggerate or eliminate the nuances that are present in each of ou r individual speech patterns, Alien Voices demonstrates how, despite the meaning of wo rds, the "music" of our speech can change the intent of what we say.

CHAOTIC CHAINS ANNA VALENTINA MURCH (1989) This wo rk desc ribes light, motion, rhythm, reso nance, order, and chaos in fo ur dimensions. Chains of mirrored balls are suspended from the ceilin g and attached at the fl oor to motor shafts. The turning shafts cause the chains to sweep and undul ate through space. Their beautiful and often chao tic moti on is captured by a fl ashin g strobe. Cbaotic C bains is depe ndent upon feedback from its own ebb and fl ow to transform and evolve its movement from the regul ar into unpredictable patterns. SUCH RUINS GIVE THE MIND A SENSE OF SADNESS ELLEN ZWEIG (1989) [P] Drawin g from a quote of architect Bern ard Maybeck for the title of her piece and usi ng turn-of-the-century tec hnology, the artist created a series of camera obscuras that captures realti me images of Maybeck's Palace of rts and projects them into the Fine A Exploratorium 's exhi bi t hall. This livin g cinema, with W ide-angle view s and soft lenses, provides a )9thcentury view of the world. A PENDULUM CLOCK NOR MAN TUCK (19 89 ) [P] A t fi rst glance, the giant see-thro ugh erector-set-like structure seems to be a reali zation of one of L eonardo da V inci's mechanical inven ti ons. Totally open and exposed, it is constructed of




Rift Zone, an art piece created by Ned Kahn,

jets of air bubble through loose white sand, creating patterns that are reminiscent of volcanic cinder cones, bubbling mud pots, and other geological formations associated with geothermal activity. The patterns are constantly changing; the sand is always in motion. In the summer of 1993, a group of half a dozen elementary school teachers sat and watched the bubbling sand for half an hour, observing the changes over time. The intent, according to Exploratorium teacher and physicist Barry Kluger-Bell, was to capture the teachers' imagination and encourage them to notice things that they might ordinarily overlook.

rank Oppenheimer, the founding director of the Exploratorium, began building exhibits while teaching physics at the University of Colorado. Rather than having students do a different experiment in the laboratory each week, Frank created a "Library of Experiments." Throughout the semester, students could use the exhibits that made up this "library," experimenting independently with a minimum of instruction. The Exploratorium reflects Frank's desire to create an environment in which people can learn and discover on their own. The Exploratorium is a teaching laboratory where visitors wander freely among exhibits and artworks, experimenting, observing, playing, and learning by making their own discoveries. These teachers were attending the School in the Exploratorium (SITE), a program that trains elementary school teachers to use inquiry-based learning in their classrooms. To help these teachers learn to observe natural phenomena, the SITE staff had them observe a number of the museum's artworks, including Michael Brown's After just a few minutes of observation, the teachers were enthralled. ''They saw one thing after another after another," Barry recalled. ''They noticed how the sand would pile up and then at a certain point there would be a little avalanche. They noticed there were ridges being built up. They noticed particular patterns that were developing and they tried to predict what would happen. They tried to figure out why avalanches occurred at a certain point, why the sand took the shape it did. There were a couple of teachers who came away from that experience saying 'That's my favorite exhibit in the whole museum now.' "

Meanderings, Bob Miller's Sun Painting, and Ned Kahn's Cloud Rings.
Barry felt that the artworks were particularly useful for calling the teachers' attention to details that they might ordinarily ignore. "Working with artists at the Exploratorium, I've learned that one

Frank Oppenhelme, In the Sound Column.

of the things artists do is take things that you don't normally notice and sort of grab you by the head and make you look at them," Barry explained. "The art-

The staff uses the museum's exhibits and artworks to train teachers to use hands-on and inqUiry-based techniques in their classrooms. Teachers also bring their classes to the museum to learn and discover. Artworks created through the museum's Artist-In-Residence Program are a vital part of the museum's library of teaching tools. In

works tend to bring interesting phenomena up to the surface, so that you can make better observations." Physicist Paul Doherty shares Barry's enthusiasm for teaching with the museum's art pieces. Paul teaches in the Exploratorium 's Teacher Institute, a program that works with middle school and high school

steel, ropes, bicycle cha ins and a bowl in g ball , and stands 24 feet tall. The clock has gear-like teeth protrudin g from it, markin g off the sixty minutes of the hour, as w ell as a large and a small hand. It is powered by the weight of a large metal basket fill ed with artifacts which in turn acts on the crown wheel: the key to the clock 's turnin g.

TERRAFORMS AL JAR NOW (1990 PHASE I) (PHASE II , 1993) [P] See detailed description, page 17.

VIBRATING PIN SCREEN W ARD FLE MING (1991) [P] The pin screen has a ro und table- like fo rm, and consists of a perforated metal sc reen stretched li ke a drumhead wi th in a metal frame. The screen has 97 perforations per squ are inch. Each perfo rati on is fill ed with one hi ghl y refl ecti ve, nickel-pl ated pin , whi ch swings li ke a tin y pendulum . Avibrato r attached to the underside of the screen's frame causes the pins to move in unison through sequenti ally varying wave patterns. This vibration resu lts in a display simil ar to a digi tization of the refl ectio n of li ght off movin g water. Changin g colors are added by three overhead li ghts, with ro tatin g gels shinin g on the surface of the screen. REFLECTION ON AN INCIDENT IN THE OFFICEMARLOWE BILL CULBERT (1991) [P] Adepiction of the comb inant properties of li ght and a light-object collision, Marlowe consists of a set of offi ce furniture: a desk, chair, filin g cabinet, trash can and coat rac k fu sed together as one un it with all compone nts intersectin g the surface of the desk. Some twe nty-odd li ghted tubul ar fluorescen t lamps also in tersect the surface at va rying points, as if incli vidual "rays" of li ght. The scul pture is suspended in space above the ex hibi tion fl oor. WELL OF LIGHTS TO SHIO IWAI (199 2) [P] A n extension of earl y 19th-centu ry movin g im age technology: f1ipbooks, zoetrope, etc. , Welt oj Ligbls goes well beyond fi lm and the video monitor/TV form at to consider some revolutionary ways in which an object and image can appear to move in space. Welt oj Ligbts is an image sculpture, a three-dimensional piece employin g laye rs of movin g image ry th at are generated by a combin ation of computers, strobin g video projections and spinnin g transparent discs . ORIENTATION SCULPTURE FOR THE BLIND WILL NETTlESHIP (1992) [P] Seven tacti Ie maps, at va rious


science and math teachers, helping them make use of hands-on learning in their classrooms. Watching Paul at Michael Brown's

deposition. He makes teachers get their hands dirty, shaping landforms from sand and watching the flowing water erode them away. At Water Waves, he encourages people to watch the waves and look for connections and patterns. He finds many of the art pieces are particularly effective in encouraging people to make observations, and then connect those observations with phenomena that they see in the world around them every day. He finds that the artworks direct the viewer's attention, but allow enough space for experimentation. The teachers at the Exploratorium make use of the artworks just as they do the exhibits built by scientists-to help people learn about the world around them. Thomas Humphrey, a physicist who has been involved in both teaching and exhibit-bUilding at the Exploratorium, sees that as the museum's main role in education. "What museums do is provide rich and memorable experiences for people. No one comes away from the museum remembering anything that's quantitative. When they talk about an exhibit later, they don't use the language of physics. But they remember experiences they have." Thomas feels that artists play an essential role here. " If our job is to provide visitors with rich experiences of the natural world," he says, "who can help us do that? Who should we call into our museum to make exhibits to do that? There are scientists and t here are engineers and there are artists. You could go on and on. If what you want to do is provide memorable experiences that center on natural phenomena, then artists belong here as much as anyone else does- maybe more."

Meanderings, you might guess that the piece

was designed by a physicist to be used as a teaching tool. Paul tilted the glass to send streams of water flowing down the glass.

"Meanderings is one of my favorite teaching

exhibits," Paul said. "There are so many things you can explore with it, and it's beautiful." He began by pointing out the meanders and starting a discussion about why the water acted as it did. What forces were affecting it? Gravity pulls the water down the glass; cohesion holds the streams together; adhesion attracts the water to the glass; inertial forces come into play when the water goes around a bend. "You can directly interact with the water," Paul said, demonstrating by making two small streams merge to make a larger one. "You can also change the angle of the glass or the flow of the water. All of these give the piece great depth." Paul also uses Meanderings to teach about light. The meandering streams of water focus light from a small bright light to make bright streams on the white surface beneath the glass. The light reveals the pattern of turbulence created when the streams flow into the pool of still water at the bottom of the incline. The shadows of bubbles in the pool have a bright star in the middle, another effect of the focusing of light by water. According to Paul, one of the strengths of Meanderings as a teaching tool is the tremendous range of exploration it makes possible. " I expect to find something new every time I come to it no matter how many hours I've spent teaching at it," Paul said. "In general , the artists seem to approach their work with a different perspective than the scientists. Often a scientist will start with an idea of what they want to teach and build the exhibit to teach that. The artists create exhibits that end up being more open-ended. Especially this piece. There's a spectrum of both scientific exhibits and works by artists, and Meanderings happens to be at one extreme of the spectrum, allowing exploration in ways that even the artist never expected." Paul uses many A.I.R. pieces as teaching tools. At Terraforms, he teaches about geological processes, considering erosion and

Pat Murphy is a fiction writer and the Director of Publications at the Exploratorium. Her books include The City, Not Long After, the Nebula Award- winning The Falling Woman, and By Nature's DeSign, a book on patterns in nature created in collaboration with photographer William Neill.

locations inside the Exploratorium, guide visitors by shape and by surround in g floor textures. As an artwork, the maps function as a navigational aid for visuall y impaired guests.


JIM PAUL (1992) Aslide/lecture presentation on human migration. In attempting to trace his matriarchy, the artist followed his fam ily from Virgi ni a to Mobi le, Alabama at the start of the Civil War, to Cali forni a in the 1920s in an attempt to illuminate the relationship between personal events and largerscale historical movements.


MARK THOMPSON (1992) Artist/beekeeper Thompson translated the foraging movements of honeybees, housed in a hive on Capp Street, into coordinates on a city map, which he then followed. Along the way, he col lected raw materials-stories, visual impressions, pressed flowers, street objects. At the Exploratori um, an observation hive was on display, along with a city map showin g the progress of Thompson 's exploration .


MORGAN O' HARA (1992) This install ation offered two ways to make se lf-portraits. The first was a drawing table with a map of the world on which visitors could track their individual travel paths by hand. The second was a computer graphics system which allowed visitors to transform their lifetime travel patterns into printed images.

TOS H10 IWA I (1992) [P]
Music I7lsecls consists of an RGB

monitor with fou r "insects" moving about randomly on the screen, each corresponding to a different instrument (pi ano, bass, percussion) in a MID i sound modu le. There is also a palette of colors which correspond to the individual pitches of a two-octave diatonic scale. The user paints his/her music on the screen by selecting and plaCing a color from the palette wi th the cu rsor or "brush." As the insects on the screen cross the lines drawn by the "composer," they sound the pitch indicated by the color on their particul ar instrument. Certai n colors cause the insects to change directions, allowing them to move around the entire screen. in short, users find themselves emp loying the visual medium of painting wi th colored li ght to actuall y compose their own beautiful music.


Negotiate a fee for the artist that is approximately one-fourth to one-third of the total project cost (this should include travel and housing, materials and equipment, and staff assistance). Factors that will affect this formula are the scope and/or the time needed to complete the project. Have the artist make a presentation of his or her proposed project to your staff. This is a nice way to inform the staff and to provide an avenue for establishing contacts. Have the artist do development work and fabrication work on the premises, so staff can offer suggestions and ensure that the piece is durable and safe. (State in the contract that the artist has control of the aesthetics and content of the piece but must be open to suggestions concerning durability, safety, and compatibility with your other exhibits.) Structure the project into three phases: experimental phase, fabrication phase, and shakedown phas . The experimental phase should result in a working prototype. At the Exploratorl um w put an escape clause in our contract that allows us to terminate the project after the experimental phase if we decide that insufficient progress has been made to warrant going ahead. The shakedown period allows time fo r working out all of the unanticipated problems that occur once the piece has gone on display. Require that the artist write a maintenance manual for the piece and a critique of the process.

he following are particular points that the Exploratorium's Artist-InResidence Program has found to be important for integrating artists into a working museum environment. Have an artist on staff to coordinate the program and to act as a liaison between visiting artists, staff members, and the public. This person, or another, should be designated as the shop mentor or project manager- the person who makes sure that things go smoothly in the shop. Establish an Arts Advisory Committee of interested and sympathetic arts professionals from your community. They are helpful with finding artists, with the selection process, with supporting and contributing to the art and science dialogue, and with resolving issues. They can also help with fund-raising activities. Commission artists who have experience or are willing and interested in working collaboratively with your staff. Working collaboratively enhances the quality of the piece and the learning experience of all involved. Establish criteria so that projects are thematically related to content areas of your museum. This provides a frame for both the artists and the institution to make decisions about how (or how not) to become involved. Structure each project so that the idea or piece can evolve, but maintain control by having a clearly written, but flexible budget. This allows the project to take a new direction if a discovery is made in the development process, without going over budget.

WATER WAVES ANDREJ ZDRAVIC (1993) [PJ See detailed description , page J7. MEANDERINGS MICHAEL BROWN (1993) [PJ See detail ed description, page 15. CLOUD RINGS NED KAHN (1993) [PJ See detailed description, page 15. LAGOON RESTORATION PROJECT LAURIE LUNDQUIST (1993 -97) [PJ The goal of this three-phase effort is to improve the flow of energy in the Palace of Fine Arts lagoon, just outside the Exploratorium , and to create an informative water feature inside the museum. Phase I and Phase II wi ll include the design and construction of a sculptural fountain inside the museum th at remecliates water fro m the lagoon and educates museu m visitors about the dynamics of a wetland system. In Phases 11 and III Lundquist and the Exploratoriu m staff plan to augment the biodiversity of the lagoon and implement biological modifications to the lagoon's eco logi cal system th at will abso rb excess nutrients out of the water and cycle them hi gher into the food chain. ESSAYS- ON THE ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE PROGRAM

MARK BARTLETT (1993) As a writer-in-residence, Mark Bartlett wrote two essays for A Curious Alliance: The Role of Art in a Science Museum, a publication outlining the importance of the arts at the Exploratorium. This publication will hopefully become a tool for other museums wanting to include artists in their exhibit-deve lopment process.


Requests for further information about a particular residency program at the Exploratorium should be sent to:

A.I.R. Program
Peter RichardsDirector of Arts Programs Nick BertoniAI.R. Projects Manager Melissa AlexanderProgram Assistant n addition to the Artist-in-Residence Program covered in detail in this publication, the Exploratorium offers two residency programs for artists working in other media. The Exploratorium's Artist Research Program (AR.P.) offers residencies for performance and installation artists-in a wide variety of disciplines- whose work explores aspects of nature, perception, and culture. One element of the AR.P. is Cultural Rhythms, a performance program which encourages artists to examine culture as a perceptual phenomenon. The common bonds all these performing artists share are an innovative approach to their art forms and a desire to explore technical and creative problems in the development of their work. Artists working in this program have created and performed pieces involving dance, percussion, theater. storytelling, song, accordions, robots, poetry, puppets, synthes izers, harps, and even canaries. Finished pieces are presented as temporary installations, presentations, or performances at the museum. The Exploratorium's Film Program collaborates with other departments in the museum, as well as with various film festivals and community organizations, to provide films, videos, and multimedia presentations. A Filmmaker-in-Residence Program provides for an extended exchange with artists who use the moving image as a tool for inquiry and who are working in an experimental mode with film, video, and new media. Residencies have explored media literacy, persistance of vision, cognitive and diverse cultural processes, personal histories, and the relationship between image and sound. Finished projects are projected in theaters or presented as temporary installations at the museum. For the AI.R. Program information packet. please include an ay, x I I envelope with $1 .50 postage. The address for all programs is: Marina McDougallCurator

Artist Research Program/Cultural Rhythms

Pamela WinfreyDirector, Performance Programs

Film Program
Liz KeimDirector, Film Programs

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Michael Rudnick

The Exploratorium 360 I Lyon Street San Francisco, CA 941 23

Shadow play performance by Kirk Roberts.

Non-profit organization

3601 Ly

CA 94123

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