Center For PostNatural History & Mattress Factory

Trip Start Jul 07, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Pennsylvania
Sunday, July 8, 2012

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A few monts ago I read about a new museum in Pittsburgh.  The mission of the museum was described as follows: "The Center for PostNatural History is dedicated to the advancement of
knowledge relating to the complex interplay between culture, nature and biotechnology. The PostNatural  refers to living organisms that have been altered through processes such as selective breeding or  genetic engineering. The mission of the Center for PostNatural History is to acquire, interpret and provide access to a collection of living, preserved and documented organisms of postnatural origin."  This sounded intriguing.  They're only open on Sundays and since today is a Sunday I decided to pay them a visit.

The museum is very small.  The front room of the museum had a few permanent exhibits.  The larger back room was used partly for permanent exhibits but mostly for a temporary exhibit, The Cold Coast Archive: Future Artifacts from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.  I checked out the permanent exhibits first.  There was one section that had displays and below each display was a telephone receiver.  When you picked up the receiver you'd hear the text that went with the exhibit.  While I would have rather read the information, I found these displays interesting.

Then I checked out the temporary exhibit.  I can't say I understood the name.  I'm somewhat familiar with the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and expected an exhibit that explored the science about it but that's not what I found.  It turned out to be an art exhibition about the contents of an imagined survival kit designed to help future generations successfully use the seed cache.  I didn't get much of anything out of this exhibit.

Next I headed for the Mattress Factory.  Most of their exhibits are room-sized contemporary installations most of which are created by in-residence artists. 

There's a lot of contemporary art that does nothing for me; the exhibits at the Mattress Factory were no exception but there were a few I liked.  One floor was dedicated to three installations by James Turrell.  The first I saw was Catso, Red, which is a red square projected onto the intersection of two walls.  You're supposed to see a red cube that appears to be suspended in the corner.  I had to struggle to see that.

Next was Danae.  This piece a darkened room where a hole has been cut into one of the walls.  The area behind this hole is lit by a combination of ultraviolet and incandescent light.  The hole appears to be three-dimensional.

Last was PleiadesThe description read as follows: "You approach the gallery through an inclined corridor so dark that you are virtually without sight. At the top of the ramp, you sit in a chair and face blackness. After your eyes adjust, an amorphous sphere of grey-white, or perhaps red, begins to appear, more a presence than an object. As you look harder, the form becomes smaller. You turn away for a moment and back again. It grows and glimmers. But the source of light itself is constant and still."   The entrance was certainly dark and I saw the amorphous sphere of gray-white but after that what I saw didn't match this description.  I'd see faint blue shapes above the gray-white sphere that seemed to pulsate and move.  I have no idea what caused this illusion.

They also had two rooms by Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist who chooses to live in a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo, that I found interesting.  The installation in the first room is called Repetitive Vision.  It's a room with mirrored walls and ceiling and fluorescent dots on the floor lit mostly with black light.  As you look around you find your image reproduced all over the room.  The installation in the second room is called Infinity Dots Mirrored Room.  It also has mirrored walls and ceiling and dots on the floor but it's a brightly lit room and there are three female mannequins painted white with large dots standing in the room with you. You find yourself in this piece too standing amongst the mannequins when you look around the room.

I headed for Spoon for dinner.  I don't recall where I heard about Spoon but I had seen a recommendation somewhere.  I got there just as they opened.  I sat at the bar. 

They had a five-course tasting menu for $65 or I could order a la carte.  I was told that the  vegetarian tasting menu would consist of two of the standard menu items except half-sized portions, two of the standard menu items with the meat removed, again, in half-sized portions, and a dessert.  Since the four full-sized menu items totaled $44 and I guessed a dessert would be around $10, it didn't seem that the tasting menu was a very good deal so I ordered the two vegetarian items a la carte, which were the Gorgonzola Blue Cheese Souffle and the Vegetarian "Bar-B-Que".

Both courses were very good.  I also got a bread basket with some tasty muffins, biscuits and bread.  I didn't have room for dessert.  After dinner I headed back to the hotel for the night.
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