John @ MJT Entrance, 9 Feb. 08
John @ MJT entrance, 9 Feb. ’08

Walking into the Museum of Jurassic Technology is like walking into a Terry Gilliam movie: collaged, quirky, and a bit incoherent. The difference, however, is that I liked the museum. Despite being a bit dog-eared with missing or out-of commission exhibits, the museum envelopes the visitor into its intimately scaled, dimly lit galleries and enchants with its lush layers of sound and visual tricks (mirrors and lenses bouncing light and overlaying reflections). I particularly liked the gallery of stereoradiographs. A series of flowers, rendered in a 3-dimensional, gossamer play of light -coalesced with a background of choral music playing in the gallery, the music somehow seemed to resonate with the pictures. I could almost see the flower’s petals flow and dissipate like tendrils of white smoke as if animated by the sounds.

The smell of scented candles upstairs lead us to a tea room -a room which vaguely reminded me of Saenredam’s paintings (minus the cathedral scale of course): white interior, vaulted ceiling, suffuse with sunlight. This space could use a little more polish though. The ceiling has patches of smoke stains (a previously-placed candle sconce?) and our table hadn’t been wiped off in a while.

The tea and cookies were just the right boost to absorb what the rest of the museum had to offer. We moved on to the theater to see a 45 minute film called Levsha: a Russian tale interwoven with the interview of a craftsman who creates micro-miniature works. By the end of the movie I was thinking, “…yeah, that’s about right…” – the way it caps the experience of the museum which I can best describe with a “huh?” I would very nearly suspect this film was directed by Mike Myers’ character from Saturday Night Live: Dieter – a german aesthete whose comment on surreal, disturbing, and non-sensical videos was: “gorgeous!” (said with an erudite, raised eyebrow).

Overall I felt like I was walking through someone’s house-sized curio cabinet. Forget the pomp and starchitecture of today’s museums. M.J.T. amuses, enchants, and, best of all, makes you go “huh?”

Museum of Jurassic Technology
9341 Venice Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
mjt.org

Recommendation: use the parking structures in downtown Culver City (first 2 hours free) and walk over to the museum (crossing Venice Blvd.); also, plenty of great restaurants in downtown Culver City all in walking distance.