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Museum of Confoundment

February 27, 2016

Situated on a sun-blasted section of Venice Boulevard, the Museum of Jurassic Technology looks out of place among the Qwik-Marts and tire stores. A tiny doorknob set high opens a door into a darkened room…which leads to another darkened room, and another, connected by narrow hallways lined with odd objects.

The displays are accompanied by giant explanations with blocks of text in brown print on black backgrounds in very dark rooms (I busted out the flashlight at one point, just so I didn’t trip and hurt myself), much of the “factual” information made up or falsified somehow.

The whole “museum” is some kind of weird post-modernist joke lacking a punchline. My overwhelming feeling was:

It reminded me of a game of Apples to Apples I played with some college kids a few years ago. The usual notion of the game is that the dealer has a word or phrase and everyone else has cards with other random words, phrases or names on them, and the players submit one of the ideas on their cards as the one that goes best with the dealer’s.

This works best when the crowd is witty and loves wordplay. The problem with playing with these students was that they would submit their ideas seemingly at random, and the dealer would pick without reason, just saying something like “That’s the one I liked.”

Everyone else seemed content with this system, which led me to believe I might have been experiencing my first unsurmountable generation gap. I was left on my emotional porch, silently screaming at these annoying kids to get off my lawn.

Ok, I’ll say it. I want things to make sense. I may be an old fuddy-duddy who uses terms like “old fuddy-duddy,” but that’s all right by me. I’ll be over here studying my encyclopedia and looking at the Monet waterlily ponds. The kids can go to the Museum of Jurassic Technology (no the name doesn’t mean anything) without me.

  1. February 27, 2016 21:27

    I agree with you regarding using *reasons* for choices in Apples to Apples – the interplay is half (or more) of the fun! Although in the games I’ve played, possibly the most clever bit of word play – but simultaneously most frustrating – was someone’s method of choice for the adjective “random” (or similar? I don’t remember exactly what it was). He took the adjective literally and picked a card entirely by chance without reference to the nouns on the cards. Augh, and yet, exactly! But that was fairly controversial – it struck some in the “crowd” as a great response to the card, and others were more on the side of “that’s not the way you play!” (but not divided by age – much more divided by “color within the lines” rule-followers vs. more… independent thinkers).

    I think, however, that the meaningless may not strictly be a generation gap issue; the fashion of decontextualization and reduction of meaning happens in cycles, or perhaps has always been “current” among some artist/authors/people somewhere since it started, either with Dada or before (I am not aware of groups of people elevating the entirely nonsensical for the reason of being nonsensical before Dada, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist). And, sometimes, a work can seem nonsensical or pointless to one person but evoke emotion or meaning in another. I don’t personally have much use for things I don’t connect to, but in some cases remain open to the fact that a work I don’t personally find evocative might be meaningful or interesting to someone else. (in other cases, bah, get your collection of sequentially-named, entirely unpainted canvases off my lawn!)

  2. byjane permalink
    February 28, 2016 12:05

    Say it, Suebob. And KC, whoever you are.

  3. March 3, 2016 22:10

    Ha! I’ve been to that museum twice: once about 30 years ago, and once again more recently (now that I’m 48). The first time, I totally did not know what to make of it. The second time, I came away with the message: “The joke’s on YOU! Hahaha!”

    Amazing that they’ve been around sooo long, and so few of the “exhibits” have changed. But it is an exercise in surrealism and Dadaism. And you have to admit that they’ve pulled something off really well if they’ve lasted this long…especially here.

    But as much as I love quirky art and experimental art, I really didn’t like the joke being on ME. Both times, I was left unsettled and disappointed. Of course, that is their point…to create a reaction whatever it may be. Still…amazing they’re still around.

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