Electric Lady Land (Nathan)

Trip Start Sep 03, 2010
Trip End Oct 27, 2010

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Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Friday, October 15, 2010

I'd been excited to visit Electric Lady Land ever since reading about it our guide book- it's the world's first (and as far as I know, only) museum to fluorescence. I'm not entirely sure what I was even expecting, but it definitely wasn't what we ended up seeing, and I don't mean that in a bad way- the actual place was equal parts art and curation, science and new age hippyism. Plus they had a cat! But before that...

So, it was pouring constantly that day, on and off. I don't even remember what we did for breakfast, but we took the long route to Electric Lady Land, wandering around town and checking the map maybe once every 45 minutes. We stumbled across an awesome store not in the guidebook called A Space Oddity, which was absolutely crammed full of 80s action figures and playsets- there were Kenner Star Wars figures, a huge collection of Real Ghostbusters toys that brought back so many memories I was left in a daze as a result, Gremlins and E.T. figures and toys, Star Trek stuff, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles... they even had Dino Riders, and I'm the only person who even remembers Dino Riders! And on top of all that, they had new stuff, the kind you usually find at conventions or comic book stores- Futurama action figures, stuffed Yoshis and wearable Mario and Luigi hats, models of the Enterprise (both the original and the one from the movies), a lot of anime and Japanese stuff (Ghost in the Shell figures, if I remember), and it was just overwhelming. We probably spent a good half hour there nerding out... it was like an unplanned museum visit, only the museum was tailor-made to remind me of a combination of my childhood and every convention I've ever been to. It was very, very hard not to spend every cent in my account right there and then, but I knew that this wasn't really the time to start a collection of anything, especially since it would probably just get stolen, broken or confiscated somehow on the way back home. I'm lucky I wasn't high then, or I would have bought everything I laid eyes on. The Dino Riders still tempted me, but they were just the little action figures, not the awesome dinosaurs covered in armor and lasers and sawblades, so I passed... I did look up Dino Riders on eBay as soon as humanly possible, though, and found out that a mint boxed dinosaur goes for anywhere from $100 for a tiny one to $1000 or more for the big ones. I'm not going to say "Well, there goes that dream", but only because I'm in denial. :(

After that we finally found Electric Lady Land... at first we thought that it was the building being gutted and renovated and that it had probably closed down a month before we arrived, but I asked someone in a nearby shop and luckily it turned out we were just one block over from it- when we actually got there, we rang the bell like the sign on the door said to but nobody answered. After waiting a couple minutes, we decided to try back later and headed off to get lunch. As we were walking away, a Norwegian man approached us and asked something (I forget what). He was a little intimidating... he was in his 50s, I think, with a very boisterous loud voice and an odd manner of speaking, and he asked where we were from. When I said we were from Colorado, the conversation went something like this:
"Where are you from in Colorado?"
"Uh, I... we're-"
And then he told me that he and his wife had visited Boulder and thought it was a beautiful place. Whew. For a second I was afraid he just had an irrational hatred of Boulderites, but I guess he was just a little excited. Glennica and I found a nice restaurant nearby and shared a plate of venison stew, then headed back to Electric Lady Land, and this time they answered the door and showed us in.

The top floor wasn't really the museum part, but was instead filled with fluorescent art; lots of colorful crackly patterns on discs and some cave sculptures that were like surreal dreamscapes. The museum was run by the artist and his wife, who apparently took turns giving the tour- she was the one who greeted us when we came in and took our coats and bags, then he came up from the basement with a couple people he'd apparently just given the tour to. He was a Jerry Garcia-looking man, she an older woman with a sort of spiritual, New Age air about her. Both looked like they'd be right at home running the same museum on Pearl Street in Boulder. There was also a pretty silver-furred cat there, which they said wasn't theirs... they seemed to be taking good care of him though, and he looked pretty healthy and happy.

We had to take off our shoes and put on slippers before going down to the basement, since part of the exhibit was meant to be walked on and would be damaged by rubber treads. Taking the very shallow, steep stairs down, we saw... well, it was a tiny little basement, smaller than yours, most likely. But amazingly, the tour lasted for over an hour, and in my opinion, managed to be interesting for the whole time. This was a unique experience for me- most museums have signs and maybe an audio guide, but leave you on your own. She stayed with us the entire time and gave us in-depth explanations of every single thing in the room, making it more like an intimate, private school lesson with just the three of us. As for what we saw, some of it was easy to describe, some was pretty difficult.

We started with an art display... it was like a giant-sized version of one of the cave-like sculptures on the main floor, large enough to walk around in. It had kind of a dome that she told us to look into... there were windows of various shapes and sizes all around it, and inside was a fluorescent blue mineral held by a bunch of glowing orange tendrils. There was a mirror we were supposed to kneel in front of in order to see... ourselves, I guess, from three different angles? There was a tiny statue in a tiny hole in the wall, which was symbolic of something, and something that looked like a little space station, and a sort of cavern that had a bunch of fluorescent rocks, a lot of crystal, and other unidentifiable little trinkets and thingamabobs, some of which glowed in the dark, some of which glowed under UV light, and in front there were about ten switches that turned little lights on and off, played music, and occasionally didn't seem to do anything. If I sound a bit confused, it's because I was- she had a very thick accent that made it a little hard to tell what she was saying sometimes, and a lot of it was about the artist's vision of what everything was supposed to be... plus it was just a little bewildering no matter what- I was expecting a typical museum experience, and suddenly she's all "Come over here, and look in this dome. This thing represents the oneness of the universe through fluorescent time. You can kneel in front of this mirror. Here, play with these switches." It took some getting used to. But after I rather awkwardly finished playing with the switches and examining all the little crystals and statues and such, it settled down into something more like a science lesson, and I don't mean to say that the artsy part was bad, either, just a little surprising.

She gave us a sort of brief description of how fluorescence worked, told us the fluorescent mineral capital of the world is Franklin, New Jersey (which I already knew, actually- I read a book on the subject. When I told her this she became very interested in knowing what book it was, but since the title was just "Fluorescent Minerals", I wasn't able to help her much), and gave us an overview of the history of fluorescent mineral discovery and use. The rest was mostly her showing us cool things and telling us all about them, which was pretty fun- especially cool was seeing my own passport under UV light, as it had different markings and colors for shortwave and longwave UV light, all of which were invisible under regular light. She showed us beautiful glowing rocks of all colors, paintings made in UV-reactive pigments, naturally fluorescent seashells and man-made fluorescent objects, advertisements that used UV light to change the image, and then told us about fireflies, Alba, the genetically-modified glowing rabbit, and similarly modified glowing cats and pigs. One particularly memorable thing was a tenebrescent rock- it changed color from white to pink under the light, and stayed that way until held under a hot lamp. I didn't even know rocks like that existed, though now that I think of it, that must be how some of the toys I had as a kid changed color when exposed to hot water or left in the sun. According to the Wikipedia page, this principle is also used to make those glasses with lenses that darken when exposed to sunlight. Neat!

So, as I was writing this Glennica handed me an information sheet from Electric Lady Land that I didn't even know existed. Now that art display makes a whole lot more sense. Well, okay, a little more sense. It's still depicting stuff like "Sadhu-Orange energies" and "The center of the Universe where time does not exist, inside the form of an Extraterrestrial Biological Entity". There's also a lot more info on the old UV lamps and diagrams labeling every single rock, so if you're curious about any of the ones in the photos, post a comment and I'll look it up for you. :)

Overall, it was a great experience, and it was very sweet of them to give us such a thorough, enthusiastic tour. I could tell they were really proud of their art and of their collection, and they wanted their visitors to experience that same appreciation and excitement. I had a very good time, and it was a unique, different experience- something that was getting increasingly harder to have, after all we'd done already.

The rest of the night was spent wandering lost in search of an Ethiopian restaurant that Glennica saw in the guidebook as the rain got worse and worse. We spent literally hours looking for it- after that night, Glennica swore off using the maps and let me do the navigating, though she did set me straight quite a few times, even if she didn't realize it. When we finally found the place, it was closed for months for renovations, but as we were heading off to find whatever we could, we saw another, different Ethiopian place less than a block away, and just went there instead. They were pretty good, but not as good as Ras Kassa's back in Boulder. They did have some interesting mead, though- it was the first mead I've tasted that didn't taste like alcohol at all- it was really like liquid, drinkable honey. Glennica hated it.

We took a shortcut to the hostel through Vondelpark, and I saw a frog and took its picture. Otherwise it was all rain and cold and sleepiness until we got back. We must have gotten a good rest, though, because we were very busy the next day...
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