All Eyes on the Exploratorium


This past Friday morning, Liz Keim was kind enough to let our class into the Exploratorium and show us a series of short films (along with coffee, so we could fully appreciate them). The films we saw had a running theme: they looked at our city and larger world in ways that we normally never would ourselves. So much is overlooked and taken for granted that a different angle, light, or speed can give us a completely new perspective. A kernel of popcorn, for example, as in Zea (1981) can become a slowly unfolding, artistic mystery through film. Beautiful, even. These new views were perfect in the setting of the Exploratorium, which is all about challenging the way we perceive the world around is. The collection of short films forced us to really see, not just look, and simultaneously think and feel deeply.

Michael Rudnick’s Panorama (1982) mesmerized everyone, as, as Liz Keim put it, a “ten minute poem.” Shot around Russian Hill for a year, the eerie shades of color and light and gorgeous shots made it very emotive. An odd little reoccuring blimp even gave it that essential, crazy San Francisco flavor. In f-train study 69 (2005), Rachel Manera plays with time lapse on a trolley around the streets of San Francisco. The effect is a quickly winding, backwards journey through brightly colored routes, unwound to music.

Everyone enjoyed Vespucciland (1982), which also used time-lapse along with free-spirited dancing to illustrate the simple joy and vibrance of the city. The one digital piece was Felipe Dulzaides’ Blowing Things Away (2001), which involved a broad range of objects, all close to the camera, and their reaction to Dulzaides’ rippling breaths. Everything from restaurant candles to fogged mirrors were used, everything rapidly, noisily transforming. Meticulous care and attention was shown in the techniques of both Flip Book (1991) and Things I’d Say If I Were Pope (1993), the latter with a pinscreen and an inspiring poem by another film maker, Dean Snider.

Although they were brief glimpses, everything we saw had a lot of magic and heart just by shifting the way we view the simple things that surround us each day.


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