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Fujiko Nakaya's Fog Sculpture at the Exploratorium

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One of Exploratorium's new exhibits is located on the pedestrian bridge between Piers 15 and 17. It is an installation of creative and technical acheivement that is astounding. The architect of this new project is artist Fujiko Nakaya, and she has been creating these fog sculptures since 1970. She was born in 1933 in Sapporo Japan, but graduated from North Western University in Evantston, Illinois. It's not difficult to imagine where her ingenuity comes from. Her father is Ukichiro Nakaya who is credited with making the first artificial snowflake. He was an assistant professor at Hokkaido University. He also founded Iwarami Productions that produced a number of documentory and educational films and radio programs. To add to that, he was an accomplished Sumi-e artist.

As a member of Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT), Fujiko Nakaya created the world's first Fog Sculpture at the Pepsi Pavilion Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan, encasing the giant domed pavilion in fog. Since then she has established fog installations in galleries worldwide including The Australian National Gallery in Canberra in 1982, and The Gugenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain in 1999. Her Australian sculpture is in the museum's Sculpture Garden and she titled it "Foggy Wake in a Desert: an ecosphere" (fog sculpture #94925). The one in Bilboa, Spain is titled simply "F.O.G." (fog sculpture #08025). She has won numerous awards including the Australian Culture Award, the Laser d'Or Award, the Yoshida Ksoya Special Award, the Minister for Posts & Telecommunications Award for Artistic Contribution to HDTV Programming, and the Special Acheivement Prize at the 2008 Japan Media Arts Festival.

Among her other acheivements, Ms Nakaya opened Japan's only video art gallery, "SCAN", in Harajuku in 1980. From 1979 to 1998 she was a lecturer in the Department of Cinema, College of Arts at Nihon University. She was a pioneer of video art in Japan, and has herself produced a number of video works of art. She is credited with being the first to explore new technologies in Landscape Art beginning with the '70 Pepsi Pavilion Fog Sculpture, defining the sculptures as "misty environments offering visitors a surprizing visual, bodily, and mental experience. She currently lives and works in Tokyo, Japan.

"So," you say, "why should I go look at fog in a city, indeed a whole Bay Area, that is often enshrouded in fog?" Because Fujiko Nakaya's sculptures are more than the fogs we see rolling over the hillsides from the coast. Her sculptures use artificial and natural influences to create an ever-changing experience. The natural sunlight playing on the fog is enhanced by artificial, strategically placed lighting, the experience of walking through her fog sculpture is enhanced by the sounds of the eddies and tides of the bay, the water sloshing against the piers, even the nearby sounds of traffic and people. The sculpture itself changes shape with the winds, or lack thereof, and the time of day. What's more is this is a sculpture that you can walk through, unlike a stone or marble sculpture, and observe from the inside out. Sometimes you can't see anything beyond the fog, sometimes you see things through a soft misty veil. Fujiko has titled this San Francisco fog sculpture for the Exploratorium "Fog Bridge" (#72494). It is a permanent installation and creates a few minutes of fog every 30 minutes. There is no entry fee, you can just go and enjoy the experience, or while you're there, go and enjoy the other exhibits in the Exploratorium's new location.


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