Granted, this is an awful lot of images for one post, but I’m hoping to simulate for people who have never been there the sensory-overload experience that City Museum offers. This place, like the Gateway Arch and the Climatron at the Missouri Botanical Garden, has become a unique must-see in St. Louis.
I wish that City Museum, in St. Louis, had existed when I was growing up there. It’s an unbelievably inventive, active place—both for kids and for adults who are in sufficiently good shape to climb many stories of spiral staircases, squirm through wire mesh tubes high in the air, and otherwise navigate their way through this enchanted space, created from industrial parts and tons of concrete (I presume) in the old International Shoe factory building. It’s for good reason that the museum’s website recommends that you bring a flashlight and that the gift shop sells knee pads. Some well-prepared souls wore head flashlights, like spelunkers. Doing this museum properly is, essentially, to do spelunking.
The first couple of floors contain a network of mostly hidden tunnels: you’ll notice a small opening at the side of a narrow walkway that leads to who knows where; a couple of metal steps in some inconspicuous place will lead up into a twist of metal tubes that disappear beyond the ceiling; a child will suddenly pop into view, or out of view, in a completely unforeseen place. There are long spiral slides and shorter straight slides and little bitty tunnel “slides” whose presence is indicated only by openings at the sides of pillars or staircases. For someone who must keep her eyes on her child at all times, this place would be a nightmare. And, as the museum entrance sign says, there are no maps.
Furthermore, the place is loud, thanks to a bellowing organ in the building’s core (the Caves/Spiral Staircase area) and to the constant echoing shrieks and laughter of children. Spelunking is far outside my physical capacity, but an out-of-shape older person such as myself can still walk some of the uneven, dark passageways, or climb the dimly lit spiral staircases, and marvel at the repurposed building materials there and elsewhere in the museum. I took photos despite ridiculously slow shutter speeds (measured in seconds), because it was simply impossible not to. Needless to say, tripods are not allowed; they would pose a real hazard even in spaces wide enough to set them up. Anyway, here are a few abstracts, semi-abstracts, and unclassifiables. More to come.
One chain short, alas.
This image, scanned from a negative, is a section of a manhole cover. Neenah, oh Neenah! Your manhole covers “can be found throughout the central United States and parts of Europe,” according to Wikipedia. Long may they resist rust. For those of you who live in Europe, have you seen Neenah in your city? Let me know if you find it. The name is supposedly the Winnebago Indian word for “water or running water” (Wikipedia again).
Digitized from film negative. I didn’t make any changes to this shot except some slight color correction. This will be the last of the vandalized-dumpster shots, I think.
These are peeling-dumpster photos (see explanation in the previous post, Under the Sea) that I’ve exhibited various places or that are on my website. But upon going through my old files, I see two or three more that I’d like to work with, so I’ll be staying with this one dumpster a little longer. Four of the photos above were taken with digital point-and-shoots; one was shot on film and digitized. Is the film photo easily distinguished from the rest?
In August 2004, somebody set fire to the dumpster at the apartment building at the end of our street. The paint on the dumpster peeled and turned bizarre colors. What a bonanza! I got a lot of abstract photographs out of that act of vandalism. This one wasn’t good enough for an exhibit (not sharp enough in key places), but I like the way the peeling has created the shape of a fish. To me this form usually looks as if it’s floating on top of the blue, when in fact it’s made up of the underlying metal. Once you see this, you can make the “fish” recede and then “resurface” repeatedly, until you’re dizzy or your eyes start to water. I’ll post one or two sharp dumpster photos in the coming days. This shot was taken with film, then digitized.