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Exploratorium Announces New Black Box Exhibition: Aperture Lucida

Exploratorium Announces New Black Box Exhibition: Aperture Lucida

Wondrous illusion created without electronics or digital technology  


SAN FRANCISCO (January 13, 2020)—On February 21, 2020, the Exploratorium will open a new installation in its Black Box gallery space entitled, Aperture Lucida. The installation features a new optical device and artwork created by current artist-in-residence, Tristan Duke, which generates a virtual ball of light that appears to hover in space as visitors interact with it. The immersive experience is accomplished without the use of electronics or digital technology. Visitors can preview Aperture Lucida at After Dark on February 20, and it will remain on view through May 3, 2020. The installation is the second in a new series of media arts installations that utilizes the museum’s Black Box gallery.

Visitors to Aperture Lucida first encounter a dark monolith—a large, cube-like structure in the enclosed space. A ball of light appears to hover in space several feet in front of the monolith. The holographic ball of light persists, even as visitors change position around it. Upon stepping into the ball of light, visitors will first be enveloped by it, then it will seem to dissolve, leaving the monolith as a transparent screen.

“It’s very exciting to share Aperture Lucida—the culmination of a two-year residency—with our visitors,” said Kirstin Bach, Interim Director of the Arts at the Exploratorium. “As an artist and inventor, Duke’s creations integrate physics, optics, and mathematics. This work blurs the line between an art object and a device, while challenging and astounding our perceptions.”  

Duke’s past work explores the science of optics and visual perception, and he focuses on creating new modes and forms of visual representation. Duke’s hand-drawn 3D holograms, which produce floating forms on a metal disc when light shines across its surface, were included in In Silhouette at the Exploratorium in March 2019. His holograms and photographs have also been exhibited nationally and internationally at LACMA; Art Villa Garikula, Georgia; The Velaslavasay Panorama, Los Angeles; MASS MoCA, North Adams; and Holocenter, Long Island, NY.  

The Exploratorium’s Black Box is an 800-square-foot space that highlights immersive media-based work at the intersection of science and art. The new series of media arts events—which kicked off with the recent installation of Karina Smigla-Bobinski’s Kaleidoscope—will include four exhibitions over the course of a year. 

About the Artist 

Based in Los Angeles, Tristan Duke is an artist, holographer, and inventor. As co-founder of the Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio, Duke and his collaborators operate the Liminal Camera, one of the largest fully-functional film cameras in the world. Duke is also widely known for inventing vinyl record holograms, and has created first-of-its-kind hologram artwork for best-selling albums for recording artists such as Jack White, Guns ‘n Roses, and the Star Wars: The Force Awakens soundtrack. Over the course of the last two years, Duke has been an artist in residence at the Exploratorium, where he developed his latest invention: Aperture Lucida.

About the Black Box 

A place for presenting artwork that inspires and astounds in mysterious and wondrous ways, the Black Box is a darkened 800-square-foot space that provides an ideal environment for media art installations. A commonly used metaphor in science and engineering, a black box describes something that has observable inputs and outputs and unseen inner workings. Something goes in and something comes out, but the process by which transformation occurs is “black” or unknown to the observer. At the Exploratorium, the black box concept has been combined with our focus on art as a way of knowing through exploration, inquiry, and discovery.

Drawing on the Exploratorium’s unique province as a hybrid museum presenting and developing artworks at the juncture of art, science, and technology, the Black Box features dynamic, innovative multimedia exhibitions to prompt curiosity and transformation.

Calendar Editors Please Note:

Aperture Lucida

By Tristan Duke

Friday, February 21, 2020 – May 3, 2020

Preview on Thursday, February 20, 2020 • 7:00–10:00 p.m. (Ages 18+)

Osher Gallery 1, Black Box

Included with museum admission.

Tuesday–Friday: 2:00–5:00 p.m.

After Dark Thursday Nights: 6:00–10:00 p.m. (18+)

Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

Experience the delight of illusion in a new work by artist and inventor, Tristan Duke. Aperture Lucida is an artwork and optical device that challenges and astounds our perception. As you approach a black, monolithic cube centered in the large white space, a holographic ball of light appears. The ball of light becomes a virtual object that unexpectedly explodes and dissolves as you walk into it. This astonishing experience relies on no circuitry or digital technology—it’s an experience of  pure wonder.

About the Exploratorium

Exploratorium logo

The Exploratorium is a portal to the astonishing scientific phenomena that animate our world and shape our actions. We create extraordinary learning experiences that ignite curiosity, upend perceptions, and inspire brave leaps forward. Since 1969, the Exploratorium’s museum in San Francisco has been home to a renowned collection of exhibits that draw together science, art, and human perception, and that have changed the way science is taught. Our award-winning programs provide a forum for the public to engage with artists, scientists, policymakers, educators, and tinkerers to explore the world around them. We celebrate diversity of thought, inspired investigation, and collaboration across all boundaries.

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