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A Line or Two: SnakPak

It's interesting how site leads on to site when you're poking around the web. Last week, for instance, I was looking for information on one of the Twin Cities' most amusingly offbeat institutions, the El Dorado Conquistador Museum. Curated by the protean Eric Dregni, our top expert on regional kitsch (Minnesota Marvels: Roadside Attractions in the Land of Lakes is just one of his many books) and housed in the back room of the elegantly kitschy Kitty Cat Club in Dinkytown, the Museum is a collection of conquistador-themed oddments from forty and fifty years ago, when Man of La Mancha was a cultural meme and people mounted plastic busts of bearded men in those half-moon helmets on their living-room walls.
My idea was to pass the info on to my old friend Tia Lombardi, a smart and unconventional museum professional from San Francisco, who'll be coming to town for the big American Association of Museums convention in Minneapolis week after next.
The site, like the museum itself, is delightfully tongue-in-cheek, gently satirizing the whole local museum world (the El Dorado's board of trustees purports to include "Cargill Whitney MacMillan," "MacMillan Whitney Cargill," "Jerome McBush," and "Dottie Target"). And, I noted, it's a sub-site of something called SnakPak.

An Online Fantasmagoria

How to describe SnakPak? It's an online fantasmagoria of wit and beauty, a neo-Dada compilation of verbal tricks plus oddly compelling photographic images, a below-the-radar treasure house of creative brio…I could go on. It's an outlet for museum pro Jim Ockuly, the former  web guy for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the current web guy at the Minnesota Historical Society. (Ockuly 's serious but lighthearted professional blog, museumedia, is worth exploring too.)

    The SnakPak home page offers a smorgasbord of clickable options under "Current Contents"—really a motley archive of projects, proposals, schemes, jokes, and photo features. How about clicking on "List of Proposed Museums"? You get "Museum of Historic Futures—Chronicling all past visions of the future" and "Museum of Future History—Reserved space for the time when our current epoch is the study of our descendants" and "Smells of History Museum" and "Museum of Non-Existent Art."

Click on "Nothing" and get a little empty white rectangle.

Click on "World of Colour" and get ready for a surreal ride into something resembling marketing research a la Monty Python. You click on a favorite color—they're mislabeled, so that the button for "green" is pink, and the letters g-r-e-e-n are purple—and get a strange page—the one for "green" is labeled "All Your Incessant Listening." There's a graph, with a vertical axis marked "Time" and a horizontal one marked "Happiness"; three little colored dots are arranged on a line on the graph, signifying—your guess is as good as mine.

Context Is Fine, But...

Not all of SnakPak's offerings are quite so immersive in Dada—the various "Photo Featurettes" are compilations of Ockuly 's clever and striking photographic images, all offered under a wonderful motto: "Context is fine, but isn't it refreshing to admire a thing in and of itself once in a while?" And most of the images are indeed of single things: a tiny barber shop named "Central Barber" ("Stay away from peripheral barbers," advises Ockuly 's caption). A hot dog in a bun on a wrought-iron table. A ceramic chihuahua on a shelf. Two red plastic kayaks pulled up on a beach. Visual haiku, or if I may be allowed to go a little Japanese-literature-nerdy for a moment, visual senryu (witty, light-hearted haiku).

Plunge into SnakPak if you'd like to wander around in the world of one of our city's most creative and unconventional minds, but be warned—the site is probably bottomless. Ockuly's been adding to it for more than a decade, and I'm guessing that you could spend nearly that much time exploring it. To sum it up, I can't think of anything better than another of Ockuly's SnakPak mottoes: "Every day the same old thing…variety!"

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