Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Museum of Jurassic Technology

Last weekend, we finally visited The Museum of Jurassic Technology, an L.A. landmark I've been wanting to see for some time. It was...strange. The nature of the exhibits at the MJT are not as self-explanatory as your average museum. You go to the Natural History Museum, you see a big dinosaur skeleton, and you don't really need any more explanation. But when you're confronted with something like Tell the Bees...Belief, Knowledge and Hypersymbolic Cognition, it's pretty hard to figure out what the fuck your looking at. I think you're probably expected to read up on all the exhibits on the website before you go.

The whole place is darkly lit, and the exhibits have an extremely random quality to them, which at times gave me the feeling I was in some sort of strange dream. In fact, what it reminded me the most of, was the Quay bros. film Institute Benjamenta, particularly the scene where the protagonist is wandering through the corridors of the institute and comes upon a glass case filled with powdered stag antlers, with protruding straws to snort the stuff through. The curators seem to have an artistic bent, and I got the distinct impression I was supposed to appreciate the atmosphere as much as any knowledge I might obtain. A film presentation explaining Geoffrey Sonnabend's Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter consisted largely of images of waterfalls, opera music, and German and English text being read simultaneously (and thus indecipherably).

My favorite exhibit was, without a doubt, the micro-miniatures: tiny sculptures meticulously carved from the heads of needles, viewable only through a magnifying glass, and even smaller mosaics built from pieces cut from butterfly wings, and viewable only through microscopes! Another great one was a display of corroded dice from the collection of Ricky Jay. And possibly the strangest was a collection of letters to the Mt. Wilson Observatory by crazy people. Some of these reminded me of the old lady in Donnie Darko who wrote the book on time travel.


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