The Jurassic Museum of Technology

We decided to visit galleries in the Culver City and Santa Monica environs one day during our recent visit to Los Angeles. We visited the Billy Shire Gallery and attempted several others in the vicinity, but as it was holiday time, most were closed. Billy Shire was great. Had a good show, great bookstore and some terrific big Tim Biskup pieces (a huge--almost 8' monster (3D) and several (I think giclees)big (36" x 48" framed prints. There were Basemans and other pieces from known low brow artists.

We also visited the Bergamot Stationwhich hosts the Santa Monica Museum of Art (unfortunately closed due to a show being installed). Tons of galleries. A great japanese paper company, Hiromi, with a wonderful collection of papers to touch, feel and best off, buy! We did have a chance to visit Copro Nason Gallery to see their 15th year anniversary show. There was something from everyone and for everyone. It was great to see the work directly, with my favorites being two pieces from Shepard Fairey--big pieces that are very bold, collage-y and direct. Another big surprise was that everything was very affordable (great for collectors and not so great for the artists).

Now, to the petit four! The highlight of the day was The Museum of Jurassic Techology, a great and odd experience rendered at the highest level--exhibiting the wierd and eccentric--a la the world of McSweeneys, Ricky Jay and the book of Miscellaeny. However, Wikipedia refines it's description to a better understanding:

The museum claims to have a "specialized repository of relics and artifacts from the Lower Jurassic, with an emphasis on those that demonstrate unusual or curious technological qualities." This explains the museum's name and also suggests its puzzling nature, since the Lower Jurassic ended over 150 million years before the appearance of hominoids and in particular before anything that could be called technology (see geologic time scale).

Its catalog includes a mixture of artistic, scientific exhibits that evokes the cabinets of curiosities that were the 18th century predecessors of modern natural history museums. The museum was the subject of a book by Lawrence Weschler in 1995 entitled Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, and the museum's founder David Hildebrand Wilson received a MacArthur Foundation grant in 2003. The museum claims to attract around 6,000 visitors per year. In 2004, a 35-minute documentary about the museum was produced entitled Inhaling the Spore; this film is available on DVD in the museum's gift shop.

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder portrays the museum, and David Hildebrand Wilson's role as curator, as a work of conceptual art. The exhibits are shown to be riddled with factual errors and peculiar attributions. However, many of the exhibits that, initially, seem to Mr. Weschler to be entirely fabricated turn out to have a factual basis. He sees the museum as a commentary on the authoritarian character of most public museums and upon the trust that patrons place in those authorities. The museum is a reminder of such historical periods as the beginning of the Renaissance and the turn of the 20th century, times when increased world travel and rapid scientific progress resulted in artifacts that blurred the boundaries between what was considered possible and impossible.

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet Of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Techno logy

It is done to the nines. Wonderfully off kilter in it's exhibitry, use of materials and ideas (an entire exhibit on cat's cradles with projections and audio--wax hands making the different types of cat's cradles, stories on what they symbolize and how they are used in different cultures) as an example. There is an exhibit devoted to the language of bees. Another celebrates in a somber display of dog portaiture, the russian space program and the dogs central to it. Lovely use of dim lighting, candles, projection, lenses, funny brass scientific holders, linen and wood. Someone understands bookbinding and uses it extensively in the displays. It is all dark and not dreary. Even the bathrooms have candles, rolled towels, fresh flowers and some sort of message. Every square inch of the place is teaching or confusing or stunning (in both instances) or all. It is a place to plan to spend the day--as it will take the better part of a day to acclimate yourself to the Jurassic "space" in your mind and the other part to begin to understand one exhibit.

"Confusion can be a very creative state of mind; in fact, confusion can act as a vehicle to open people's minds. The hard shell of certainty can be shattered…" — David Wilson in an interview with author Lawrence Weschler, originally aired on NPR, October 27, 2001.

Visit LA just for this. It's worth it.