Bold, Playful Exhibition Takes Visitors on a Journey of Identity
SAN FRANCISCO (April 18, 2019)—The Exploratorium proudly announces its summer exhibition, Self, Made: Exploring You in a World of We. Running May 23 through September 2, 2019, Self, Made invites visitors to explore how we form and perform identity through dozens of new interactive exhibit experiences, works of art, and curated collections of cultural objects.
The exhibition features a selection of artworks expressing different facets of identity including: Academy Award–winning costumes created by Ruth E. Carter for the superhero King T’Challa and his sister, scientist/inventor Shuri, in Marvel’s celebrated film Black Panther; work by Afro-Arab and Canadian artist Esmaa Mohamoud, examining gender and race through sports identities; work by contemporary artist Melissa Cody, who employs her skill as a fourth-generation Na Dené (Navajo) weaver to explore identity, urban life, and indigenous experience; work by Kehinde Wiley, painter of the official White House portrait of President Barack Obama; and Humanae, Brazilian artist Angélica Dass’ compelling photographic work-in-progress, which is an inclusive challenge to racial categorization.
“We are thrilled to welcome visitors to engage and learn with us by interacting with this intellectually diverse and emotionally rich exploration of identity,” said Chris Flink, Sakurako and William Fisher Executive Director. “Over the past half century, the Exploratorium has created more than a thousand hands-on exhibits that bring STEM concepts to life. In our 50th anniversary year, we are honoring our legacy and pushing the boundaries of what a science museum can be by delving into some of the sources of social, cultural, and psychological constructs that shape our highly-varied selves.”
The exhibition invites visitors of all ages to ponder a variety of questions about themselves: Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Are your cells “you”—and are they still you if they live on long after your death? Can a change of clothing change your way of thinking? Self, Made helps visitors question their assumptions (and others’), weigh their psychic and cultural baggage, and even try on new personas.
“We live in a dichotomous moment for the expression of identity. For some, ideas about identity are becoming more expansive, but for others, there are still dire consequences for expressing a non-normative aspect of self. And at the same time, identity is central to many of the most deep-seated and challenging issues we face globally,” said Melissa Alexander, director of the exhibition. “Self, Made addresses deep and pressing questions, but it does so with the Exploratorium’s brand of inquiry, humility, respect, joy, and curiosity. We are learners first, and so we have created a set of playful and substantive experiences that will enable visitors to have rewarding conversations about race, gender, privilege, and empathy.”
Photographs from 'Don't Get Me Wrong,' from the Self, Made exhibition, photos by Amy Snyder.
Interactive exhibits made at the Exploratorium especially for Self, Made draw from biology, psychology, history, race, gender and feminist studies, and popular culture. The exhibit touches on a range of topics—from sports and fashion to medical research, from science to childhood—allowing visitors to gain a deeper understanding of topics and questions at the heart of our current culture. In “Gender Blender,” for example, visitors digitally combine different visual elements derived from playful references to clothing, hair, and bearing. They are asked to consider whether the resulting characters—from realistic to fantastic—seem masculine, feminine, both, or neither, and to reflect on why they arrived at their decisions. In “Mixed Bag,” visitors consider privilege, theirs and others, by choosing weighted bags that are marked with identity-related outcomes. Visitors choose the bags that most closely relate to their own experience—from gender to spoken language to religion and more—place these beanbags into a sack, and compare the weight of their sack with others.’ In “Born This Way,” visitors partner up to explore each others’ beliefs about the elements of our identities that stem from ‘nature’ or ‘nurture.’ Visitors can also explore living cells from the immortal HeLa line; learn about Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose life shaped biological research; and ponder the complex narratives of race, science, and human nature that these cells personify.
Featured alongside exhibits developed for the exhibition will be thought-provoking and eclectic collections of objects with commentary, chosen by special guest co-curators including anthropologist Duana Fullwiley, Ph.D., sports journalist Howard Bryant, Earth historian Lauret Edith Savoy, Ph.D., and American Studies scholar Ramzi Fawaz, Ph.D. The collections chosen by these co-curators prompt exploration of how identity is at play across a range of inputs that shape our current perceptions of identities, from historic to present day, and from cosplay and sports to science and law.
“At a basic level, identities are expressions of how power operates in any given society,” said Dr. Fullwiley. “It was exciting to collaborate with such intellectually curious program directors, writers, and graphic designers to share themes from my work on the anthropology of science with a larger public.”
Costumes worn by Chadwick Boseman and Letitia Wright in Marvel Studio's Black Panther (2018). Photo Credit:
Jonathan Pulley/Museum of Pop Culture
“It was an honor to receive a call from the Exploratorium to participate in this exhibit," said Howard Bryant. "And even more exciting for me than being a part of it is the Exploratorium’s willingness to address these types subjects that are critical to our understanding of others and of ourselves.”
Self, Made provides an opportunity for parents and children, students and teachers, and visitors of all ages to enter into conversations about how we see ourselves and others, how others see us, and to reflect on how identity categories constructed by larger social and historical forces affect us all.
“To live in this nation is to be marked by residues of its still-unfolding history, life-marks seen and unseen,” said Dr. Savoy. “It has been a great gift to collaborate with exhibition planners and designers to create a living space in which visitors can explore the myriad dimensions of ‘identity’ that cross time and generations. Self, Made is especially fitting to honor the Exploratorium's 50th anniversary.”
“Self, Made is much more than another interesting science exhibition. It is an ethical project to provide visitors with a range of tools to better understand and grapple with the most complicated aspects of identity, from how we negotiate our relationships to gender to the ways we perceive and respond to race, disability, or sexuality,” said Dr. Fawaz. “In our contemporary moment when words like ‘diversity,’ ‘identity,’ and ‘multiculturalism’ provoke either rage or boredom, this exhibition breathes new life into the question of how we can respond to the fact of human heterogeneity with openness, curiosity, and even love.”
Exhibit developers also invited local Bay Area groups to contribute material reflecting their perspectives, cultures, and history. Precious personal objects are on loan from 23 adult English language learners from two classes at City College of San Francisco. Each student wrote about their object and their identity in their language of origin, then provided an English translation to the exhibition as coursework. Delightful and innovative sartorial creations will be included in an interactive piece allowing visitors to virtually try on the garments by having them digitally projected onto their bodies. The digital projections are based on garments designed and created by the talented fashion design students at Oakland School of the Arts.
Self, Made is supported in part through the generosity of The Julie and Greg Flynn Family Fund, and Roger Wu and Ruth Hauser Wu. Community Partners for Self, Made are BART, the San Francisco Chronicle, and SF Gate.
Members of the press are invited to an Opening Preview on Thursday, May 23, from 3:00–5:30 p.m. Please email email@example.com to RSVP.
CALENDAR EDITORS PLEASE NOTE:
Self, Made: Exploring You in a World of We
May 23–September 2, 2019
Have you ever wondered what makes you you? Explore the many converging facets of identity on this journey to the center of the self.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Are your cells “you”—and are they still you if they live on long after your death? Can a change of costume change your way of thinking? Question your assumptions, weigh your psychic baggage, and dare yourself to try on a new persona as you explore both self and society.
This bold yet playful exhibition features dozens of new interactives, artifacts, and artworks, including the Academy Award-winning costumes worn by Shuri and T'Challa in Marvel’s Black Panther, and work by Kehinde Wiley, painter of the official White House portrait of President Barack Obama.
Come as you are—and let’s take a look in the mirror.