Works on View
Art is everywhere at the Exploratorium. Here are some of the artworks currently on display—and where to find them.
An eerie orchestral chord floats on the breeze; it’s the shimmering sound of a 27-foot-tall harp being strummed by the wind.
Bay Lexicon is a visual dictionary made up of illustrated flash cards, exploring the landscape visible from the Bay Observatory’s windows as well as places and phenomena along the shoreline between Fort Point and Hunters Point.
Big Wood: 300 Years of Photosynthesis
Developed by artist Michael Brown in collaboration with reclaimed wood specialist Evan Shively, a several-hundred-year-old Douglas fir was split down the center to reveal its rings, immersing visitors in a fascinating study of dendrochronology. The wood of the tree forms the walls of an intimate, contemplative space with a center bench, and the enormous, lacy root structure compels visitors to appreciate the complexity and sheer enormity of this grand, once-living organism.
Chladni Singing is an interactive exhibit that enables visitors to draw extraordinary geometric patterns in sand with their voices. Based on studies by the 19th-century German physicist and musician Ernst Chladni, O'Reilly explores sound resonances with a microphone.
DAYLAY is a dynamic light and sound installation that will be housed just outside the main entrance to the Exploratorium. Microphones will record ambient sound during daylight hours and then play the audio back at night, accompanied by LED lights that will gradually grow brighter and brighter. Related nocturnal performances, events, and interventions will take place throughout the summer and fall.
Daily cycles of the city are projected onto a miniature topographic map of San Francisco.
Fog Bridge #72494
Debuted at the Exploratorium’s reopening in April 2013, Nakaya’s fog installation stretches across the 150-foot-long pedestrian bridge that spans the water between Piers 15 and 17. Water pumped at high pressure through more than 800 nozzles lining the bridge creates an immersive environment that shrouds participants in mist and puts their senses and surroundings at the center of the experience. The installation remains permanently on display at the Exploratorium.
Invisible by Night
Lynette Wallworth’s Invisible by Night will inaugurate the West Gallery’s Black Box media space at the museum's new home at Pier 15. This quietly interactive video installation responds to the visitor's touch and projects a life-sized woman whose eternal pacing can be interrupted by the viewer.
Conklin spent several weeks observing the Exploratorium's life sciences laboratory and produced a number of original works that capture the inner workings of the facility. Beyond hand-rendered “portraits” of the many organisms cultured in the lab, Conklin successfully and beautifully captured the process and practices of staff biologists.
Long Modified Bench San Francisco
The Exploratorium is pleased to announce a newly commissioned work by Danish artist Jeppe Hein. Hein’s looping Long Modified Bench San Francisco animates the public promenade of the Embarcadero, one of San Francisco’s busiest pedestrian walkways.
Machine with Concrete
A motor is connected to a block of concrete via a simple system of gears. The final gear will make one revolution into the concrete once every 13.7 billion years, yet the machine whirs uninterrupted.
Captured inside a large round window, hundreds of black rings travel randomly left and right along more than fifty horizontal strings.
The Observatory Library is the Bay Observatory’s research center, providing context and historical insight to the local landscape just beyond the windows.
The Oculus Table introduces a contemporary twist to a common ancient Greek sundial, the scaphe (σκάφη or "bowl"). With sunlight streaming through the oculus—the hole in the ceiling of the Observatory—the movable table can be visually aligned with landmarks on the skyline (Coit Tower, Transamerica Pyramid, etc.) to discover the sun's position in the sky and the current time and date.
As a cinema artist-in-residence, Rudnick has created a series of high- and low-tide studies along the shore, multiple time-lapse videos from the roof of the Exploratorium’s new home at Pier 15, and a longer form meditation on time and tide along San Francisco's Embarcadero.
Sensor handles beneath a towering array of lightbulbs detect a visitor’s heartbeat and the lowest bulb flashes to its rhythm. As new recordings are added, old ones move up the spiral. Over time, the internal rhythms of hundreds of users are displayed. The lightbulbs are arranged in a spiral paraboloid according to Fermat's equation; an extraordinary spatial distribution found in nature.
The South San Francisco Bay salt evaporation ponds take on a variety of colors due to halophilic organisms that adapt to the various salinities of the ponds. Photographer Cris Benton captures this vibrant landscape in a series of aerial photos taken from homemade kite-cameras flown over the ponds.
Scrapple is an audiovisual installation in which everyday objects placed on a table are interpreted as sound-producing marks in an "active score."
A twenty-foot-long wall of approximately 900 water-filled wine glasses become optical devices turning the world upside down.
Sky Theater is a rear-projected enclosured designed to reveal and celebrate the unseen patterns of the daytime sky.
Solar Hour Benches
The Solar Hour Benches are a set of six oval benches, each with a slit aperture aligned with the sun for one particular hour: 10 a.m., 11 a.m., Noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. solar time. Throughout the year, for only twenty minutes before and after the corresponding hour, sunlight travels through the aperture and projects onto inscriptions on the ground. Scientific and cultural aspects of time and sundials are also depicted on each bench.
In the celebrated film Still Life, an impossibly beautiful bowl of fruit decays at an accelerated pace via time-lapse editing, transforming a timeless scene into a visceral memento mori. On loan from the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection.
An elevated topography of silvered squares inserted between the water and the sky, Sun Swarm is an architectural intervention that collects and disperses bits of sunlight across the deck of Pier 17.
Sweeper's Clock is a 12-hour-long movie in which two performers replicate an analog clock by sweeping two piles of garbage (one for the hour hand, one for the minute hand) to indicate the time.
The Atmosphere: A Guide
This poster-essay depicts human influences on the sky and their accumulated traces, whether chemical, narrative, spatial, or political. Visually referencing the Cloud Code Chart, the guide explores ways that humans literally and figuratively occupy the present, past, and future atmosphere, from sea level to the exosphere.
The Shaping Grows
The Shaping Grows, is a computer-generated animation of a subterranean cavern, brought to life through seismic data. Beautiful mineral crystals chaotically emerge and evolve according to the natural resonance of our shifting planet. In addition to The Shaping Grows, the Exploratorium will also exhibit three short films by Semiconductor in the Webcast Studio: 20Hz (2011), Black Rain (2009), and Magnetic Movie (2007).
Water Waves is a multi-monitor video installation and time-horizon study of the power and beauty of ocean waves.
We Make the Treasure
Paul Ramirez Jonas
Explore the value of objects lost and recovered, above and below the water line, at We Make the Treasure, the second installment in our Over the Water series of large-scale commissioned artworks. By traversing layers of present-day experience and forgotten history, we invite you to investigate the visible and invisible forces that make something a treasure.
Your Turn Counts
From simple wooden gears to metal flip type, glow discharge tubes, and iPads, Your Turn Counts actually counts the turns of a handle in increasingly modern technology as the orders of magnitude grow. A playful experiment in participation and patience.