The Pepsi Pavilion: Laboratory for Social Experimentation

“The initial concern of the artists who designed the Pavilion was that the quality of the experience of the visitor should involve choice, responsibility, freedom, and participation. The Pavilion would not tell a story or guide the visitor through a didactic, authoritarian experience. The visitor would be encouraged as an individual to explore the environment and compose his own experience.” – Billy Klüver

The Pepsi Pavilion, created by E.A.T. for Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan, contained a fully immersive spherical mirror that produced real-image, three-dimensional reflections of visitors.


The culminating project carried out by E.A.T. (Experiments in Art & Technology) was the Pepsi Pavilion – an extraordinary effort involving over 75 artists and engineers – a landmark public sculpture and performance installation commissioned by Pepsi-Cola for the Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan. The artists and engineers who created the Pavilion synthesized the tendencies of the 1960s, bringing together the currents of social interaction, collaboration, electronic media, Happenings and performance art, immersive environments, and mind-altering ”realities” in this transformative ”theater of the future.”

The Pepsi Pavilion was first an experiment in collaboration and interaction between the artists and the engineers, exploring systems of feedback between aesthetic and technical choices, and the humanization of technological systems. Billy Klüver’s (director of E.A.T.) ambition was to create a laboratory environment, encouraging ”live programming” that offered opportunity for experimentation, rather than resort to fixed or ”dead programming” as he called it, typical of most exposition pavilions. Secondly, the Pavilion evoked and celebrated aspirations for heightened, non-hierarchical social dynamics built on the aesthetics of agency and transformation brought about through the collective participation of the audience, the artists, and the engineers. The Pavilion’s interior dome – immersing viewers in three-dimensional real images generated by mirror reflections, as well as spatialized electronic music – invited the spectator to individually and collectively participate in the experience rather than view the work as a fixed narrative of pre-programmed events. The Pavilion gave visitors the liberty of shaping their own reality from the materials, processes, and structures set in motion by its creators.

Published in Future Cinema: The Cinematic Imaginary after Film, Edited by Jeffrey Shaw and Peter Weibel, The MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts


Great Big Mirror Dome (1970)

A film by Eric Saarinen that documents the research and creation of the Pepsi Pavilion.

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