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Live, Through This 

If you've been feeling cynical lately, check out the Exploratorium's "Art Life"

Wednesday, Oct 13 2004
Just a guess: You've been feeling cynical lately. Everything seems crappy, or fake, or stupid. The whole election situation makes you want to scream, but you don't, because what would be the point? No one would hear you, let alone understand.

But don't despair. In a world, as the movie trailers say, where dangerous absurdity reigns supreme, one brave institution somehow finds the strength, the ingenuity, and the funding to bring its visitors the universe's most precious resource -- inspiration. We're talking about the Exploratorium here. If you haven't been lately, now's a good time to reacquaint yourself. If you've never visited, you should know that this science and art museum habitually turns bitter, leathery grown-ups into bug-eyed kids, fast.

At the moment, a new exhibit, "Art Life," features various software-brained things that move, react to humans, and appear to have memories. "It might even be slightly disturbing," the Exploratorium's public information officer, Leslie Patterson, tells us. Of Brian Knep's Healing #1, she says, "When you walk on it, the fibers on this ruglike pattern separate and create a kind of wound. And then it stays there, like a scar." There's wonder in her voice, and an affectionate confusion -- not what you'd expect from someone who works for a science museum. "It's amazing how something so abstract can be so human," she continues. "The memory of your being there, captured by something that is not human, is almost a surreal feeling." She goes on to describe Scott Snibbe's Shy as a trembling ball of light on a computer screen, one that "shrinks and moves and cowers" in response to people. It's afraid, but you can make friends with it if you're calm and gentle.

So please, continue making snarky observations as a means of rejuvenation, but consider carving out a little time for something that'll make your mouth fall open, too.

About The Author

Hiya Swanhuyser


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