The Invisible Dynamics of the Pacific Rim and the Bay Area Working Group


Session Title:

  • Working Groups

Presentation Title:

  • The Invisible Dynamics of the Pacific Rim and the Bay Area Working Group



  • The Exploratorium is planning to move to a new site along the cities’ northern waterfront not far from the San Francisco Art Institute. To better understand the context of this area, The Exploratorium is collaborating with SFAI’s Center for Art+Science, the Center for Media Culture, the Center for Public Practice, and the Center for Word, Text, and Image. As a team, it has become clear that to create an all-encompassing view of the new neighborhood in relation to the city, we cannot ignore our relationship with the Bay and also with the Pacific Ocean. By raising our sights from the neighborhoods surrounding The Exploratorium’s potential new home to looking at the City of San Francisco in relation to the Bay Region and to the Pacific, we have finally reached a scale where we think we can look back down through a series of lenses of different magnification and focal lengths to begin seeing the multiple interactions and relationships that give this place its character. What are the systems that make living on the edge of the Bay and the Pacific so dynamic? Are we adequately equipped to look at and understand the many layers of information? Do we have the appropriate ‘maps’, ‘tools’ and ‘technologies’ to help us understand this location? How can artists and other researches help us begin to describe these systems in ways that begin to reveal their interrelationships? To investigate these questions, we are forming partnerships with artists, scientists, scholars, researchers and practitioners. We plan to include more institutional partners as our direction becomes more sharply defined.

    Five research projects are currently underway including Hidden Ecologies, a micro/macro/biological and cultural cross referencing of physical areas of San Francisco Bay; Trace, an exploration of the evolving urban wireless (“Hertzian Landscape”) networks of San Francisco, Cabspotter – an investigation of the social and electronic trails of a bay area taxi system, Move Here, a study of contemporary and historic strategies for compelling people to move to the Bay Area, and a piece installed by a team of Art Institute student researchers.

    When the Exploratorium and the San Francisco Art Institute try to imagine what it will be like here in the future, many of the clues seem to come from farther west. Our future intertwined relationships with the communities and cultures of the Pacific Rim will define our way of life for many years to come. We posit that it is instructive to look at and try to understand some of the dynamics of the Bay Region as a step towards understanding the complexities of the systems that define the Pacific Rim. Given the scale of this investigation weighed against our limited means, the investigations we are conducting can only begin to create a skeleton of understanding. As we get closer to moving into a new home and as we engage new individual and institutional partners from the region, we plan to continue developing a clearer and more comprehensive picture of the Invisible Dynamics that expresses us in the context of the Bay and the Pacific Rim: the interrelationships of commerce, culture, climate, art, demographics, tectonics, science, transportation, basic infrastructure, communication, economy, education and many others.

    We are interested in sharing experiences about related projects around the Pacific Rim. We look forward to hearing from people or institutions that are developing similar viewpoints and, in particular, we hope to meet like-minded people at the ISEA Conference.


  • Working Group Members:

    • Peter Richards, Co-Chair, Senior Artist, Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA, US
    • Susan Schwartzenberg, Co-Chair, Senior Artist, Exploratorium, San Francisco, California, US
    • Amy Balkin, Artist, San Francisco, California, US
    • Jean Biagini
    • Cris Benton, Professor, Department of Architecture, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, US
    • Ian Clothier, New Zealand
    • Nigel Helyer, Australia
    • Michael Jones, Interaction Designer, Smart Design, San Francisco, California, US
    • Paul Klein, Chair, Design + Technology, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California, US
    • Gayle Laird
    • Margeigh Novotny, Design Director, Smart Design, San Francisco, California, US
    • Ricardo Rivera
    • Eric Rodenbeck, Founder & Creative Director, Stamen Design, San Francisco, California, US
    • Natalie Robertson
    • Scott Snibbe, Media Artist, Sona Research, San Francisco, California, US
    • Tamiko Theil
    • Paul Thomas
    • Meredith Tromble McDonald, Associate Professor and Coordinator, Center for Art + Science, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California, US
    • Dominic Willsdon, Leanne and George Roberts, Curator of Education and Public Programs, SFMOMA, San Francisco, California, US.