justin’s blog

museum exhibit or art installation
December 15, 2008, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

fiber optics

i recently became aware of the incredibly blurred line between museum exhibit and art installation while visiting the Museum of Life and Science in Durham NC while on vacation. here are some photos of artistically relevant exhibits at the museum.


in the first gallery of the museum was an exhibit by Steve Gerberich. its purpose was to show the power of sprockets, gears and other analogue devices. it was fascinating to look at and obviously educational. it, however, reminded me of the kinetic sculptures of Mark Zirpel displayed at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon last fall. the only thing separating the two was context. while Steve’s pieces were quite kitschy, there was some reference to something much larger. his pieces glam-o-matic and cookie monster (missed actual titles) referenced our disposable, image based culture. it could be argued whether the aim of his pieces was purely for the enjoyment and education of small children or to create a culturally charged piece, but the interpretation is largely influenced by the fact that it is in a children’s science museum.

cookie monster

“particle rain”

another piece that made me aware of this blurred line was this imitation of Camille Utterback’s Text Rain. a projector displays falling particles which interact with the shadow of the user. in this case, the exhibit lacked specific content or emotional reaction; it was purely to demonstrate a technology and entertain small children. but i was stunned that it was so similar to such a famous piece of art and yet it seemed so far removed sitting in an exhibit in a corner of a children’s science museum.

“particle rain” 2

sound experiment

the final exhibit used cameras to track the movements of people within a room and played sounds according to their location and movement. this was very similar to David Rokeby’s piece, a very nervous system. this piece varied a bit from Rokeby’s original form, but the technology was the same.

while the leap from art installation to science exhibit is hardly surprising in any of these cases as they demonstrate many principles of science, it is interesting how different they seem based on context and slight tweaks in content.

sound experiment 2


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