Location: Leiden, NL
Size: 660 m2
Subject: Seduction, Sex and Offspring in nature
The ‘Seduction’ exhibition room celebrates life. It is an explosion of form and colour, a feast for the senses. It shows what you have to do to reproduce and how much energy it takes. Indeed, if it were easy to reproduce, the world would look way less interesting:
“Without sex, a great deal of what is strange and beautiful in nature would not exist. Plants would not flower, birds would not sing, deer would not have antlers, hearts would not beat faster.”
‘Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation’ by Olivia Judson
The concept has three parts: Seduction, Sex and Offspring. These are represented together in one form: as an early 1900s Art Nouveau department store. The department store stands like a building in the exhibition room. The store windows on the outside represent Seduction. The hidden warehouse at the back is the Sex area, and in the store itself you can acquire Offspring.
The department store plays with the theatrical illusion of décor. It’s clear that it’s not a real department store, but it seduces you into playing along with the illusion. You walk onto a set of a theatrical play.
When you enter the exhibition room, you immediately come upon the front of the department store. Three façades with shiny shop windows pique your curiosity. Six interactive shop windows represent six different seduction strategies. What seduction tricks do plants and animals play to seduce one of its kind to make offspring? In these shop windows, you can see what they have on offer! The six subjects in the shop windows are: scent, getting noticed, dance, gifts, fighting and sounds. Incidentally, sometimes a strategy fails, and you have to try something else. Some of these ‘back-up’ tactics are shown in the windows on the side.
The second part, Sex, is screened off from younger visitors. A special ‘secret’ entrance ensures selection at the door. The subject is explored in the department store’s warehouse. After Seduction, it’s not yet certain you will reproduce. You must have the right tools and a suitable approach. Sex can take place in many different ways, but what do you actually need? And how exactly do you ‘do’ sex? Here, we talk about tools and parts, and what you can do with them. In addition to storage racks, there is also a staff corner in which the store director has installed a pinball machine! This area is designed to appeal to teenagers. Content and presentation are aimed at this target group.
The last part, Offspring, is about the end product of all the effort, but it’s not over yet. After fertilization, most organisms now have to do the most work: to grow offspring (embryos, seeds) and maybe take care of them until they can take care of themselves. This often costs a lot of energy. Here, you are told about caring before and after birth, and you see what being born actually means. When you enter the department store through the doors, you immediately see a huge birthday cake: the fountain of life. All kinds of cute young animals and plants are on the cake, their parents proudly looking down from above.