The Museum of Ephemerata – Underground

by Angeliska on August 12, 2010

We recently took a trip deep into the bowels of the earth to visit our dear
friends Scott and Jen Webel at their amazing new exhibit of cthonic mysteries.
I remember back when I was still living in New Orleans, someone told me about
this strange museum that had opened up in East Austin. While curiously perusing
The Museum of Ephemerata’s website, I had a premonition that I get sometimes
when seeing (or reading, or listening to) someone’s work for the first time – that sure
feeling, or spark of intuition that we will one day meet and become friends. Katrina blew
me back here, and it wasn’t long after that that I visited the Museum for the first time.
It was for the opening of their Machines exhibit, and looking around at all the assorted
oddlings congregated in their front yard turned foyer, I knew that I’d found some kin.
Fairy lights flickered in the tall reeds growing out of a clawfoot bathtub, and the fig trees
made a ersatz screen for found footage from abandoned science reels. A theremin warbled,
and the first tour filed out, and the next group of us prepared to enter the mysterious museum.
The number of strange objects the curators manage to cram into the tiny half of their house that
they’ve converted into the museum is impressive. Even more impressive is their dedication to
creating these wonderful rotating shows, and the enormously entertaining personal tours that
they provide to the public. If you’re in Austin, and you’ve not seen it for yourself, go check out their latest
show Underground while it’s still up – I promised you will leave very charmed and informed!

Underground booklet

From the Ephemerata site:
This Museum exhibition is an earthquake that rends the ground to expose the UNDERGROUND.
A hole opens up, and we are walking down into the damp dark unknown. Descend into our show-cave
through normally hidden strata! Beneath our city is a crowded metropolis of graves, pipes, cables, tunnels,
sewers, and landfills, and as we travel down past the aquifer, a glowing lake of magma! The mysterious
corridors of our subterranean journey branch off into political undergrounds, the subconscious, and the
Underworld — lair of monsters, land of the dead. By spelunking through these passages, we come to learn
that humans are strange creatures like earthworms, ceaselessly dedicated to the circulation of vast undergrounds!
The earthquake of industrialized humans has reversed the strata of land and sky such that what was underground
has become our atmosphere. Please watch your head for low-hanging rocks.

UNDERGROUND will be open for tours through November.
Learn about the body as ambulatory geological formation,
explore a Crystal Cavern, and see things dug up in our yard!

The Museum is open Thursdays (4-7pm) and Saturdays (1-4pm).
We are also open for appointments — call 320-0566
or email mnae@mnae.org for availability.
$4 suggested donation

waspnest
Beware the wasps at the entrance! Behold their marvelous architecture!

gnomes
A panoply of stone gnomes are there to greet you when you arrive. I think they might bite.

Kai plays the player piano
A new addition to the Ephemerata family has been created this year: baby Kai, who is a player piano virtuoso!
We loaned them the piano a while back for their Wondrous Instruments show, and they’ve very kindly kept it
for us. I fear we’re going to have to figure out what to do with it soon! In keeping with the them for the show,
it plays “There’s a Goldmine in the Sky” – “Take your old time mule / I know you’re growing lame /
You’ll pasture in the stars / When we make that claim”
Sad songs for desperate miners!

crystal cavern
Enter the crystal cavern – but watch out for the troglodytes!

mineral specimens
Some excellent mineral specimens – including the “dubious minerals” – Pyrite, Citrine, and Chrysocolla.

old bones
Some Civil War relics, old bones and blood-stained dice. Flotsam buried in ancient battlefields.

whipscorpion
We also lent a Tailless whip scorpions from our collection, though I have no photo of the actual article,
the beautifully done guidebook illustrates the beastie. I’m not disturbed by spiders at all, but these guys
are actually quite horrifying to behold! They are extremely intelligent, and have developed brain stems.

viewmaster
The plastic descendent of stereoscopic viewers – a 3-D viewmaster depicting Carlsbad Caverns

flaming hoop
In the Impermanent Collection you can view this death-defying feat rendered in ceramic!

Ephemerata Gardens
Ephemerata Gardens out back are lush and overgrown with sunflowers and fig-trees. A bunny lives there.

spider
As well as some very impressive spiders! Arachnophobes, I apologize for the spider-surplus:
they just seem to keep popping up everywhere I look, and I’ve always seen them as very good omens.

I want to go here very badly! I love caves and their beautiful stone formations so much.
We are lucky to have some really excellent ones here in Texas. Imagine how many are
undiscovered, or on private property? It’s our fantasy to have a subterranean nightclub
one day. We have dreams of excavating under our house and digging down. Oddly enough,
a guy in our neighborhood did just that – this 70 year old man dug 30 feet down below
his house, by hand! Just brought out buckets of dirt, one by one until he had created
three underground levels! Pretty impressive. Now the City is filling it all up with concrete.

“The magnificent underground cave system traditionally called Reed Flute Cave
and known today as the Palace of Natural Art lies beneath the city of Guilin, China,
and is over 750 feet (240 meters) long. The first recorded visits to the cave took place
over 1,000 years ago during China’s Tang Dynasty. Artificial lighting is used to enhance
the stunning rock formations in the cave, which has been officially open for visitors since
1962. One of the largest parts of the cave system is the Crystal Palace of the Dragon King,
which can hold up to 1,000 people and was used as an air raid shelter during World War II.
The grotto features a solitary stalagmite that resembles a human being –
it’s said that a visiting poet attempted to write about the beauty that
greeted his eyes but took so long to find the right words he turned to stone.”

The full set of photos from our Underground tour are up on Flickr: have a look…

8 comments

I am afraid I peeped and peeped this post with my hands over my eyes, peering through the pinky-finger slots! The glinting from the dubious minerals and the incandescent caves, though, added some twinkle to my narrow field of vision.

What a marvelous excursion! What a fascinating little place!

by mlle ghoul on August 12, 2010 at 11:35 am. #

dearie! i once dreamt, oh…about a year or so ago….that i attended a party in a basement that belonged to you. we drank sparkling cocktails whilst relaxing in giant clawfoot bathtubs with waterfalls and stained glass windows in your subterranean rumpus room!

by katinka on August 12, 2010 at 1:21 pm. #

Oh yay! I’ve been waiting for them to open up again!

by Bean on August 12, 2010 at 2:24 pm. #

Maybe Sweet Ritual will have a safe place to house a player piano?

by Valerie on August 12, 2010 at 3:48 pm. #

Valerie – I was just thinking the same thing – it could be the cue to transform from ice cream shoppe to speak easy!

by Amelia on August 13, 2010 at 5:41 am. #

the mueseum of ephemerati is featured in marc israel’s movie, “a balancing act.” and the curators are acting roles in the fiction while still protraying themselves. have you seen it. shall I get marc to send it to you?
love
michael

by michael hurley on August 13, 2010 at 11:45 am. #

Dearest Katinka,
Did you really dream that? Hmm!
Maybe because we’re all dreaming about
it, it will come true! I’d love that.
Miss you, kiss you –
xxoxo,
A.

by Angeliska on August 18, 2010 at 4:42 am. #

Dearest Michael,
That sounds amazing!
I’d love to see it.
Miss you muchly, please
come back down Texas-way
sometime.
love ever,
A.

by Angeliska on August 18, 2010 at 4:46 am. #

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