Best Extrasensory Experience

Tactile Dome in the Exploratorium

Palace of Fine Arts, 3601 Lyon (at Marina), 561-0362, www.exploratorium.edu/visit/tactile_dome

The Tactile Dome is a splendid place to suspend your overutilized sense of sight and rely instead on more primal antennae. Housed in a large geodesic dome in the middle of the Exploratorium interactive science museum, the dome is itself the hands-on experience in extremis. The interior is a pitch-black maze of tubes, chutes, and chambers that you slide, crawl, and bump through, the surrounding shapes, textures, and circumstances changing at every turn. The experience forces you to depend on yourself in a new and immediate way, and, if you're like a lot of people, to reflect on the nature of the womb and of death itself. (Traversing its mysteries is not recommended for kids under age 7, women in the last trimester of pregnancy, or anyone with bad knees, a bad back, or claustrophobia.) Conceived by August Coppola of S.F. State in 1971 to challenge early "Don't touch!" conditioning -- and the visually oriented and socially passive lifestyle that can result from it -- the Tactile Dome reconnects you to your most valuable and underused sense.

 
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