Science/technology expositions in France 96.
This report is made in connection with my ongoing research for Optomedic on "Laser-aided Interactive Environments for Human Development" and studies by High-Or, Inc. of future prospects for light technologies for consumer markets.
With France as a European leader in futuristic and science-and-industry oriented expositions, the occasion of a family vacation in France was used to visit three major and several minor exhibits, and to assess their effectiveness, contents, and methods, with particular attention to Laser technology. This report will offer concrete suggestions for how each exhibit could be improved. It is thus an introductory proposal which could be expatiated upon for the managements of the respective sites. The secondary audience for this report is for people interested in future studies, e.g. the students of the Poitier University Futuroscope campus and appropriate Internet forums..
The Disney Logo of a mock-gothic castle is used, in the form of "the castle of the Sleeping Beauty" as the center point for this world-leader theme-park. It may be seen as an (unconscious) admission by the Disney corporation that, with all the great commercial success going around, the real princess, what Kabbalists call the Shekhinah, and what esoteric futurists may see as the Soul of Humankind, is still dormant within the very center of all this activity.
Esthetically, this castle and its enchanted story-book display is the best part and merits every praise as a recreation of the gothic (or rather neo-Gothic architecture and design. But in comparison with the genre of "gothic stories", epitomized by Ian Potocki's "The Manuscript Found in Saragossa", it appears as a rather poor story.
In Potocki's tale, the hero goes through an intricate adventure contrived as a maze, where he first returns again and again to the gory scene of an old crime, then meanders through the scene of the intertwined strange stories of several co-travellers, whose lives have been undergoing transformations, with stories looped within stories-within-stories. The stories develop from psychological to cultural and religious plots, culminating the hero's initiation into a leader of the future ecumenical secret-society. It is a story of a personal and cultural transformation that happens to the hero, whereas the sleeping beauty remains just that.
In terms of design, it is a great waste to erect the central and most visible structure of the whole theme parks and then use only 2-3% of its volume to contain a rather small show which people go through only once and briefly, if at all. Disney's own self-image seems limiting or underutilized. This structure could be a central point of reference in each visitor's perhaps special trajectory through the various attractions, adding each time an added dimension of memory. It can likewise become a central beacon of interlaced laser-beams that tie the whole place together in a "heavenly" spectacle.
Disney and dis-news
While new Disney parks have opened over the years in Florida, Paris and Japan, it seems that there is no real news about their contents and designs. The myths selected are "canned", frozen non-controversial old stories and facile Americana. Even their futures and time-machine show betrays (probably again unconsciously) that the future they purport to show is what Jules Verne and H.G. Wells have essentially conceived, only bigger and faster. Compare this with the current myth-making that is going on in France and the whole modern world, such as of the Templars (see Eco's "Foucoult Pendulum"), Ley-Lines, UFO's and Crop Circles, Arthurian Chivalry and Pan-European Monarchism (see various books by Lincoln, Baigent and Leigh). While this harking on tried-and-dried themes may seem to them like playing it safe, the fact is that Disney are losing money on a scale that seem fabulous for my experiments.
I would propose a systematization of the dozen or so haphazardly assembled major attractions of Disneyland, treating them as the camps of the Twelve Tribes around the Tabernacle of the Sleeping Beauty, producing the collective errant (?) knight that should come to awaken Her.
In a past proposal (Hayut-Man, 1991) I mentioned "a New Jerusalem Pavilion" for Disneyland. This theme has been much increased in my current paper and hypertext on "Temple Theme Park" on the Internet as part of the Avimedia "Ultimate Temple" multimedia CD-Rom.
The Future of UFO's
One global yet particularly American myth that is conspicuously absent in Disney is that of the UFO's. This is a contemporary mythical theme that thrills dozens of millions of people. The reason for the avoidance may be that this is a still somewhat controversial topic, and Disney corporation is interested only in wholesome whole-family non-controversial topics. But unless they happen themselves to take this myth more seriously than any of those they handle, they can take a humorous and/or a utilitarian approach, and present UFO's as contrived vehicles for new global myths. (Specifically, I would see them as the interaction of the imaginations of the slumbering living Whole Earth (Gaia, and rather the Adamah) and of the sleepwalking collective unconscious of the whole humankind psyche (in Biblical terms Adam). C.G. Jung (1954?) and John Michell (1967) have given a sane social approach to the phenomenon, whereas thousands of myth makers and story tellers have produced a great variety of material to suit all tastes. My own work, as a cyber-architect, of constructing UFO's, revolves mainly around the Temple-Mount of Jerusalem as a superb sighting-grounds, with the machines looking much like the present Dome of the Rock, and administering various inter-faith and inter-cultural peacemaking programs. For Euro-Disney, I would advise to make regular sightings of holographic UFO's that will be seen even from the Grand Boulevards of Paris, marking in the sky the site of the Disnyworld as one of Paris' major attractions. Some of the proprietary information on making such shows is included in the (restricted circulation) technical appendices to the report. These UFO's will be built as representations of the collective experiences which the people have had that day of visiting the Disnyland theme park, where the few noted experiences of "illumination" that occurred to them become elements of this light-show.
The mazes and labyrinths of Disneyland.
Major cathedrals of Notre Dame (another image of the Sleeping Beauty archetype) have a maze on their center ground as a major key for their more occult purpose. Disneyland uses many mazes to channel the visitors queuing for the major rides and attractions, and they do it so much better than the makers of the Futuroscope (see below). The rides in the Thunder Mountain Mine and the haunted house are maze-like, and in one place, "It's a Small World" copied from Epcot, the very show itself is a pleasant ride in a maze-like canal that passes through all the cultures of this world, albeit in a sweet infantile manner. A much more adult version of such a ride is in the SF saga "Riverworld" by Jose Farmer. (It is a huge veritable "recreational" facility where all humankind is continually resurrected, where each site along that ride has the place to recreate and redeem a piece of humankind's history. The more adventurous heros travel to find the source of the river and to meet their re-makers.)
For Disneyland I would recommend building "virtual mazes" of the audiences progress through the whole theme-park and how it can be extended into a significant personal pilgrimage. People should take with them as a souvenir the picture of the maze that they made and (psychological) keys how it could then be extended in their everyday lives.
Being taken for a Ride at Disneyland
Unfortunately, I have not experienced the major ride of "The Space Mountain" and cannot comment on it. Assuming that Disney want to go still beyond this in leading people on a ride through outer space and "inner space", there could be many booths of simulated rides (such as in the Futuroscope and La Villette's "Cinaxe", where the users experience the jolts and shakes of a rough and shaky journey through some "information environment". Each of the myths displayed in the current Disneyland attractions has many "higher dimensions" of meaning, on further levels of the Spirit and the Soul (the Kabbalah can give an exact specification of these spaces), and appropriate rides can be made, using virtual vehicles ranging from magic carpets (which have become a great Disney specialty since their first Aladdin) through UFO's to the Chariots of Ezekiel's Vision.
There can be hundreds of such booths at Disneyland, using existing Disney sequences and new sequences of rides through the "spiritual worlds", all combined with the appropriate jolts and turns. Such booths can be even used as steps and stages in people's queuing for the major attractions and after them towards the next attractions.
A Virtual Heavenly Disneyland
People's "spiritual movements", individually and grouped, can be re-presented within a structure of lights in the skies above Disneyland. The frequent Parisian clouds can be put to a good use to act as projection screens for matching laser and hologram displays. For such scenes, the overall image of the great assembly of the Twelve Tribes camp grounds (re-presented as the twelve or so major themes/attractions of Disneyland) gives a good framework, and appropriate artist's versions of the picture which we are currently drawing for the Temple Mount in Jerusalem can be made for this context.
The remarkable leadership of Rene Monory lead to the construction of the Futuroscope complex on the open fields outside the provincial city of Poitier. (Monory, 1992). The great investment of the local authorities became matched by private investments and now there are over 2.5 million visitors per year, many staying on the site and continuing their vacation in the region. The financial success now allows the construction of a future-oriented university campus adjacent to the park. It is difficult to argue with success, but I expect that the relatively open-plan of this development and the expectations of the future students will lead to further development from the rather pedestrian shows and themes that are now administered there.
The impression I got is that the Futuroscope houses a rather haphazard collection of shows and facilities, making do especially with the various available designs of the Imax corporation. The Light Show played over the lake is far better than what they have at Disneyland, but it is still rather simplistic (see below). The Futuroscope has not got its own image of the future, but is a collection of what current technology happens to provide. I doubt that many will be able to recollect what they saw at the Futuroscope.
Future Metamorphosis at the Futuroscope
One of the ready shows that Imax had was about the migration of the Monarch butterflies - which is really a spectacle. The movie starts with the stages of the metamorphosis that the Monarch passes from caterpillar to pupae to a winged adult that can journey across continents. But what about the future as the stage for the metamorphosis that humankind is undergoing? Hardly anything.
I do not know from what region in France came the Abe Teilhard de Chardin, but it seems that the region of Vienne could adopt him as a local saint and make certain presentations of this (rather unconventional) French Catholic future visionary. My own recommendation would be for the Catholic cybernetic visionary the Late Gordon Pask, enacting his Interaction of Actors (IA) Theory.
In the proposal for "Utopian Communications Environments" for the Israeli Ministry of Science and the Arts I suggested an option of a "Virtual Fun Palace" with the Paskal Chapel of Understandings in its midst. I would much like to expand such a proposal for the Futuroscope. (The original "Fun Palace" was designed by architect Cedric Price, director Joan Littlewood and cybernetician Gordon Pask in the 60's and never realized. The more current Pompidou Arts Center and the CitÈ of Science and Industries at La villette (see below) were designed along the philosophy of that project, but mainly from the physical rather than from the dramatistic and informational design.). Such a Futures Fun-Palace would have many display booths for the most up-to-date crop of the electronic moving image.
The Big Picture on the Small Screen and vice-versa
The Futuroscope concentrates on the Big Picture facilities, mainly the various versions of big screen, higher definition (via more frames per second) and 3D effects of the Imax corporation. But I am afraid this is a shortsighted view. The real action nowadays is on the screens of individual PC screens, and it cutting edge is the networking of the individual perspectives into a big game of many users that share various pieces of some global virtual reality.
Visionary industrialist Arnold Goldman (the inventor of word processing and the founder of the LUZ company, which was the world's largest supplier of solar generated energy) proposed a facility where many people could come to a big movie hall to see a historic show, yet each will select to see the same story showed from an alternative perspective.
My own preference is for investigating the Big Picture that is formed when many people explore their own small individual scenes and life-stories and how they did and still may mesh into the life-stories and scenes of other people. This is a proper area of research for such a future-image-oriented university which I shall be happy to participate in leading.
Light and Laser Shows at the Futuroscope
The Futuroscope has two major shows of moving Lights. One is a double bill that includes a laser show, the other is the nocturnal light show over the central lake.
In the hall there are two types of facilities for laser shows. There is a slanted sheet of thin gauze or net that allows to look through, yet intercept the laser beams and render them visible on them, so the projected points and curved lines of laser light seem to be suspended in the air in front of the viewers. There are also mirrors above and behind the viewers, which make the beams bounce in the space and form there light angles.
the nocturnal light show is made over the lake which forms the center, and effectively the heart, of the Futuroscope. Water in many forms is very much the unifying element to the disparate shapes of the Futuroscope structures. From the lake issue sprinklers that can eject both fireworks and colored jets of water. There are also two sprinklers that create thin walls of water that act as projection screens and interceptors of laser tracings.
The laser tracers that project upon these water screens are quite sophisticated and allow the projection of animated simple line-figures. Using this limited means, a characteristic figure was made of a conductor who seemed to direct the integrated sound, light and water show, making the water rise and dance as if ordered by his (or its) moving baton. The lights also reflected from the giant crystal-like mirror walls of the __________ right by the lake, broken thereby into many additional reflections and refractions. It is a good show indeed, yet much more could be done, making "the Spirit of the Future" rise from the lake.
The design I would recommend is for a great cubic "tabernacle" (Sukkah) straddling over this central lake and its auditorium. This framework will house the various lamps and beamers, and even water sprinklers, much as the theater projectors are mounted on their respective beams. It could thus hold the laser beamers which would send the complementary beams to create great holograms in specific loci within the cubic contained by this cube. This giant "inner space" could then function as the Alchemical vessel (really the womb, the matrix) in which the transformations, even transmutations and metamorphosis can take place. More specific details are found in the appendix of a proposed demo for three-dimensional kinetic holographic imaging that I am proposing to Optomedic, and are thus currently proprietary information. I shall only mention here that I believe I have a certain solution, in principle, to the problem of building a holographic 3D (three dimensional) display facility, and that one element of the solution has to do with a new principle for the coordination of sight and sound, which is what the Futuroscope light show is all about.
To make the hologramatic elements of the overall coordinated 3D form visible, an artificial cloud or fog has to be produced from the water of the lake by appropriate sprinklers, and to rise from it - preferably in significant spatial shapes. This cloud will be thus something like the clouds of the Theophany at Sinai or the smoke over the Temple of Jerusalem, where lights from heaven will become visible. It will serve as a 3D projection screen where the otherwise invisible laser beams would be rendered visible, and the significant holograms at their respective intersections will shine.
There could thus emerge a collective form from the separate individually-shaped spheres that may appear on and off within this great cube. It may tell various tales, and my recommendation is that it may show the reconstruction of the New Adam, a miraculous child of Light emerging out of the fluids of the lake and the matrix of beamers.
The North side of La-Villette park is dominated by a great rectangular "barn" that seems as if made of a repetitive space frame. It is less a form of its own than a container in which various new forms and activities may take place. It is thus much like Cedric Price's "Fun Palace", but without the animation and the drama promised by the contributions of Gordon Pask and Joan Littlewood. In fact, it houses a fairly disarrayed collection of toys, gadgets and displays. In the words of Bradburne (1991), it is a typical "second generation science museum" organized like "a department store of scientific principles", dedicated to given displays more than to an actual doing of scientific inquiry by the users. There is some seemingly-rational order within the top to floors housing the "Exposa" exposition section, where conventional scientific fields have certain areas cordoned off from the intrusion of other disciplines and housing their own wares of vaguely-related exhibits. This arrangement may seem so obvious or rational that I need some imaginary arrangements to make a comparison.
If a renaissance architect would have designed this city, he would have strived to find an overall form of the intrinsic relationship between the various "branches" of science, or indeed of the whole "great chain of Being". He would have thus probably designed something like what Frances Yates (1966) described in "The Art of Memory", imagining edifices where movement from one section into another will represent the unfolding of a certain argument or a thesis. It is even quite likely that he would have designed the whole space in the form of a giant human-like figure, whose different members represent somehow corresponding facets of the universe. (With the former construction technics, this would have been a horizontal human figure, much as Schwaller de Lubitch (1977) shows the ancient Egyptian temple at Luxor. With modern technics, the figure could have been erect, like the French contribution to the emergent USA - the Statue of Liberty at Ellis Island, much like the Colossus of Rhodes which was considered as one of "the Seven wonders of the Ancient world").
As a modern renaissance artist-scientist, the late Gordon Pask would have probably designed such a facility as a giant "Entailment Structure" which may not have a predetermined outer form, but has an inner coherence among its elements. The elements would be lumped "modeling facilities" where the various phenomena under observation could be generated or reproduced by the participant -observers. What he would have emphasized is that the various elements should act as modeling facilities for the demonstration of well defined science topics, and that these topics should be connected in a coherent system, an "Entailment Structure" of learnable topics which can generate an infinite number of individual curriculums.
What I found particularly disappointing is that, in the second-floor of the Exposa, the life- and health-sciences were represented by mere texts, with no modeling facilities and with no organic order between them. I would suggest that there would be a great human-like figure that the visitors could walk inside and interact with the various organs and systems of that body, follow the veins, test the results of the ingestion of various remedies, and so on. It is also even more feasible to place walk-through models of the various human organs in appropriate places within the whole (5 floors) space of the building and have lines of light (curved neon tubes, laser tracings and other means) to give the outlines of the great human figure which these organs are situated within.
Going still further in that vein, while expanding on the capacity of lasers and holograms to build great light shows in the air above the site, I would recommend to build a giant anthropic figure over the city structure, signaling that the ultimate function of science and industry is to amplify the human potential. As the other sites of the traditional monuments showed, the real genius of the French was shown in the religious and civic contexts of building the Gothic Cathedrals, Mount St. Michell and the whole layout of the Paris Boulevards. Their very best was in religious architecture that seeks to sour to heaven. Taking the Catholic tradition of representing the divine in a human form and the Biblical images of Theophany, of the encounter with the Divine, of the great anthropos standing upon a rectangular pedestal ("The Heavens are My throne and the Earth my footstool ...." (Isaiah 66:1) and "and they saw the God of Yisra'el, and there was under his feet a kind of brick of sapphire stone" (Exodus 24:10) are examples). So how about a giant light structure of a human-like figure (a version of Jesus from Nazareth, if they like). This giant anthropos of lights could vie with the Eiffel tower as Paris' greatest monument.
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