The Exploratorium’s New Center for Art & Inquiry

by Admin on 06/05/2013

The newly established Center for Art & Inquiry, a major part of The Exploratorium’s expansion at its new location on Pier 15 along the Embarcadero broadens the museum’s focus on art and art-making as a means for scientific inquiry, exploration, and discovery into the workings of the globe and its myriad environments. Working with program directors from across the museum as well as a council of advisers,  Director of The Center of Art & Inquiry Marina McDougall and the many curators, program directors and coordinators, and senior artists oversee the Exploratorium’s nearly 40 year-old Artist-in-Residence Program, the new Black Box media space in the West Gallery, the Cinema Arts program and special projects that exemplify its mission to examine interdisciplinary learning.

From the very beginning at The Exploratorium, artists have played an important role. Initiating its Artist in Residence program in 1974 with reknown artist Ruth Asawa, this program enables interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration between artists and scientists, engineers, educators, and inventors. The program allows for artists to work deeply within the fabric of the institution, offering access to its diverse staff, and provides opportunities for interaction with an assorted public. With ensuing Resident artists such as Bill Fontana in 1979, Brian Eno in 1988, and Tauba Auerbach in 2009-2010, the museum has placed itself as a significant part of West Coast contemporary arts.

According to the Exploratorium, “The artistic process is much like the scientific process: a form of inquiry vital to learning. We see art is an open-ended process of investigation, speculation, imagination and experimentation. The results of artistic inquiry can take infinite form, as every artist has the potential to reinvent art practice anew.” Gallery and interactive spaces include many arts projects around and inside the building. In addition to special projects and exhibitions, much of the permanent collection organized by The Center for Art & Inquiry is placed alongside relevant interactive exhibitions and activities. For example, a watercolor “Visual Uncertainty” by 1984 Artist in Residence Vesta Kirby examines optical illusions, color, light, and perception alongside fun experiements and interactive displays. Sam Taylor Wood’s video, “Still Life” documents the decomposition of apples on a plate, combining biological processes with traditional genre painting Memento Mori.