Lightplay: Festival of Light

Saturday, June 16, 2018 • 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Included with museum admission.

All Ages

Note: Some activities and experiences have limited show times and/or limited capacity.


Observe and play in the glow of light, both natural and human-made. In this day-long festival, the transformative power of light and the human power of observation will be investigated through immersive artworks and hands-on activities. From projects using the earliest camera— the camera obscura—to experiences that rely on cutting-edge projection, this event indulges in the marvel of physics at work, while demystifying the science behind the artists’ processes.

Check back for schedule updates.

Featured Artworks

Liminal Camera by Optics Division
The Plaza

Step inside a traveling shipping container that is both a pinhole camera and darkroom. The Liminal Camera travels the country taking large-format photographs, which are processed on the flatbed truck, often using unusual processing chemistry. Join the Optics Division—Lauren Bon, Richard Nielson, and current Exploratorium Artist-in-Residence Tristan Duke—on board and learn more about their very special photography process and practice.

Light Music by Lis Rhodes
Kanbar Forum

Move throughout the space and see your shadow emerge as a player in British filmmaker Lis Rhodes’ essential, expanded cinema work. Using two 16mm projectors facing off in a hazy room, Light Music reveals intersecting patterns meant to be viewed and interacted with from various points in the screening space.

Obscurus Projectum by Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder
Kanbar Forum

Simple, centuries-old technology reframes the recognizable San Francisco Bay in Sandra Gibson and Luis Recoder’s Obscurus Projectum, which reimagines the Exploratorium’s Kanbar Forum as a large-scale camera obscura.

Dot Matrix by Richard Tuohy and Dianna Barrie
Kanbar Forum

In this double screen 16mm projection, each film contains a flicker printing of variously sized dots. The dots were produced by “rayogramming” dot screens directly onto raw film stock in a dark room. The sound you hear is that produced by the dots themselves.

A new, site-specific work from Chris Fraser, a Bay Area artist who uses the camera obscura as a point of departure for engaging the unseen in everyday phenomena.


National Endowment for the Arts

Lightplay: Festival of Light is part of the project Lightplay organized by Cinema Arts at the Exploratorium. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Liminal Camera photograph courtesy of Optics Division.