The Exploratorium brings back a holiday favorite exhibit—and this time, it's reimagined as an immersive experience.
“SEI05” (2018) by CHiKA in collaboration with Dr. Emily Rice at New York Hall of Science
When professor and experimental physicist Frank Oppenheimer founded the Exploratorium in 1969, he envisioned a place where the public would be able to learn about and explore natural phenomena. And curious visitors of all ages have been able to do just that for more than five decades through the Exploratorium’s engaging programming and thought-provoking installations, which fuse the realms of art and science. Visitors can step into a man-made tornado and alter the wind with the touch of a hand, or walk onto the Blood-o-Meter to find out just how many blood cells their bodies are making. It’s a wild ride.
This holiday season, the Exploratorium brings back a fan-favorite experience, GLOW: Discover the Art of Light. But the exhibit will look a bit different this year: Expect more artists, more works, more perspectives and more insights into light and all its facets. “This collection of artworks invites wonder and inspires consideration of all the ways that light connects and intrigues us,” says Kirstin Bach, interim director of arts at the Exploratorium. GLOW comprises the wondrous works, from illuminated installations to shining sculptures, of eight artists nestled throughout the museum’s galleries. “At the Exploratorium we look to offer multiple pathways for experiencing and understanding a concept,” says Kathleen Maguire, curatorial lead for GLOW. “Each of the artworks in GLOW utilizes light to wonderfully different effects and with a span of intentions. Most of the pieces consider connection in very different ways: How do we connect with each other? Or with our physical environment? And what about the cosmos and space-time? And how does light build and inform these connections?”
Luke Jerram, “Museum of the Moon” (2016)
In Ekene Ijeoma’s interactive “Peacemaker” experience, participants interact with the work by forming circuits between poles to activate and illuminate the artwork, while participants act as conductors of electricity. What does this work teach us? “The piece brings forward a reflection on how we connect with people and the impact of our energy,” Maguire says. “By working with others, you’re able to reach more poles than you could on your own.”
Similarly, artist Nick Dong offers a reflection on the Big Bang. In “Becoming Horizon,” more than 100,000 handsewn mirror tiles exude motion and fluttering light, creating a joyous experience that fills the senses with motion, music and illumination. “In this piece, Dong is capturing a natural phenomena that, with active observation, can be found in the space that we traverse on a daily basis,” says Maguire. “It’s there when sunlight dances across the Bay, and when light hits the glass of your phone in just the right way to cause a caustic dance of reflected light on a ceiling or wall.”
Alicia Eggert, “All the Light You See (Infinity)” (2019-2021)
Also on view will be illuminating light art by artist Michael Brown and stellar neon works by Alicia Eggert and Ames Palms, along with one of the Exploratorium’s first displayed artworks, “Enchanted Tree,” created by Burt Libe in 1971. Maguire concludes, “We hope that the experience of the artworks in GLOW invites an ongoing and active noticing of this phenomena that is so familiar that it often goes unobserved.” Through Jan. 30, Pier 15 (Embarcadero at Green Street), 415.528.4444
Photography by: FROM TOP: PHOTO COURTESY OF THE EXPLORATORIUM; PHOTO COURTESY OF ALICIA EGGERT; PHOTO COURTESY OF THE EXPLORATORIUM