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Sempervirens & Salon de Physique: Fort Bragg

at the Larry Spring Museum of Common Sense Physics

Magic Lantern Project & Installation 

[biunial magic lantern projection, handmade lantern slides with pastel & gouache

drawings on large format film]

In residency at the Larry Spring Museum of Common Sense Physics as a part of the "Redwood Time" Project, Melissa started an ongoing series of magic lantern experiments called Sempervirens.  In July 2023, the slides were presented at the museum in Salon de Physique: Fort Bragg, an installation based on the physics parlors that accompanied 19th-century phantasmagoria shows, prioritizing expositions of the preternatural in the local coastal environment and mythologizing scientific fact. 


The explorations in Sempervirens are rooted in the curatorial philosophy of Redwood Time, following local rhythms and seeking neglected histories and ecologies in Fort Bragg that fall outside of conventional systems of value, time and scale.  These include moments inspired by the nuanced sea glass ecosystem, folkloric entanglements among the sempervirens, and animation & magic lantern slide adaptations of experiments from the Larry Spring Museum’s archive.  Summoning the history of magic lantern science lectures as a space for scientific visualization and popular science, Sempervirens includes playful interventions such as the projection of local microorganisms of the sea through the magic lantern.  The slides in Sempervirens are accompanied by a sound collage featuring music by CT Bishop and field recordings from the coast.

The Salon de Physique included educational displays focused on connections between magic lantern history and the subject matter in the Museum’s archives, ranging from astronomical models to optical phenomena.  Historically, the scientific demonstrations Salon de Physique intended to magnify the space between the natural world and the supernatural through the wonder of science spectacle, shaking the participants’ foundations in what is “real” and “rational.”  This idea of the Salon de Physique as a playground for Natural Philosophy aligns with Larry Spring’s desires to create tactile, curious happenings that allow participants to experience science didactically and emotionally.


The Salon de Physique included screenings of animated short films created in the accompanying experimental nonfiction animation workshop Archival Landscapes, as well as a curation of experimental nonfiction animations with adjacent themes.  These films were projected in the boat trailer behind the museum.

Created with support from The Larry Spring Museum and California Humanities.

Huge thanks to Anne Maureen McKeating, The Larry Spring Museum, the Fort Bragg community, & all of the filmmakers who screened in the boat trailer.

Excerpt of Sempervirens lantern slide experiments

Music by CT Bishop 

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