Experimental Films at the ExplOratorium

By Lukas

The Exploratorium is a hands-on science museum that was founded in 1969. Since it began, the Exploratorium has become one of the most popular museums in San Francisco. Its exhibits are hands-on and focus mostly on human perspective: both visual and auditory. They trick your mind and confuse your senses. The experience is so unique and engaging that parents enjoy the museum as much as their children. 

When we visited the museum with class, however, we did not come to mess around with the exhibits. Upon arrival, the class was led into a screening room where we had the privilege of viewing some of the experimental films from the museum’s archive. Each film utilizes unusual cinematography techniques such as stop motion animation and time lapse photography in order to turn images of mundane reality into works of art. Films like Michael Rudnick’s “Panorama” allows us to see the sun float across the sky over the city and shadows dance swiftly across a dark apartment room. “Zea”, a several minute long close-up clip of a popcorn kernel popping, is a stunningly beautiful display of color and light. It isn’t even possible to tell what is happening in the film until the very end when the camera zooms out to show the popped kernel. 

So what do these experimental films have to do with the Exploratorium? Both aim to show us the world as we do not normally see it. While the exhibits at the museum are based in science, the films make use of an artistic medium to achieve the same purpose. By incorporating experimental film into its program, the Exploratorium provides a new angle from which to study the world around us. Our visit opened my eyes to the possibilities of experimental film.


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