Inspired by the awesome Reflections show that is now on display at the Exploratorium, the Learning Studio offered a 3-hour workshop in which visitors built their own "Shiny, Sparkly, Something-or-Others," as the title said. This constituted an experiment for us in several ways, and a good first step into the kind of activities and interactions that we would like to start offering in the future. First of all, it happened in parallel with a current show on the museum floor, and that alone allowed for adjacencies that were a source of inspiration for us, in developing the activity, and hopefully for the participants to the workshop, in coming up with their own creative ideas. We also combined the workshop with an unusual two-week residency for artist Chris Bell, who had collaborated with us before. We thought he would be a great source of inspiration because of his previous work with lights and reflections off of common household objects, and proposed to him that he would be building and experimenting with an installation on the museum floor, right next to a gallery showcasing similar work by participants to our own workshop. Graciously, and it take a particularly selfless and generous artist to allow this, he accepted, and a great collaborations resulted once again. So, this workshop started in the Learning Studio with a brief introduction to what we were going to do: essentially explore some of the aesthetic qualities of lights and reflections, and create our own expression of that.
Then we led the group onto the museum floor to have a chat with Chris, while he was starting to work on his installation. This was a great moment in which Chris introduced himself and his work as an artist, and had some very insightful words on his process of creation with such an ethereal medium, with a particular emphasis on knowing "when to stop," which I think had a great and positive influence on the visitors' work.
Then it was time to head back to the LS for an initial exploration, using just a light source and a simple sheet of Mylar, in order to start generating ideas, and to familiarize ourselves with what was possible and beautiful with this medium. After a while, we introduced, as usual, a host of different materials, all somehow reflective or translucent, as well as construction materials, wood, tape, motors, switches, etc.
The mood became very quiet and meditative, and the visitors got to work, and soon different avenues of thought took shape. I found it very interesting that often similar initial explorations led to very different end results. Likewise, as is often the case with our activities, the participants ranged both in age (from about 12 to older adults) and gender, and all seemed to be equally engaged in the activity.
Ideas were tried and discarded, problems were solved, and slowly each participant got to the point were they were satisfied with what they had built. At this point we took their creations, which were on independent "shelves", and took them on the museum floor, where they became part of a collective Wall of Light, which stood on display for all museum visitors to see and appreciate for an amazing full two weeks.
And that concluded the first part of our exploration with light and with different kinds of interactions with the public. In the next days I will talk more about our next steps, which led to some interesting events!
chris belllightlight explorationphotospiereflectionsWorkshop