Immersive and Participatory Experiences

On Wednesday this week I had the pleasure of spending my 30th birthday at Wonderspaces, a pop up museum that comes to San Diego during the Summer. I visited Wonderspaces last year with my husband and son, and we were very impressed. This year the pop up features 15 artists. A photograph of the list of artists is below.

The first installation we viewed was Hoshi by Nonotak Studio. Hoshi features a short corridor surrounded by mirrors and strobing lights flashing to the beats and pulses of unfamiliar music. The patterned flashing lights are intense, and the music drowns out any other sounds produced in the building.

It truly is a mesmerizing experience. The installation has an epilepsy warning, so a fair warning that this experience can be triggering for some. Even for me it was even a little bit jarring at some points, a feeling that I found to be somewhat consistent throughout the installations in the museum.

Next stop was Tadao Cern’s Black Balloons. This installation was definitely one of my top favorites. The precision in mounting the balloons and how they remain still while floating in the air. I really would love to learn more about how they did it.

I think that is one major issue I find with many art museums. The lack of artists interpretations of their work. I’m sure part of this is that either the artist isn’t around to give it or is unwilling, but I think learning more about the how and why would really provide a better understanding of their work.

Following Black Balloons was the installation called Akousmaflore by Scenocosme. Every time a visitor gently touches the leaves of one of several hanging potted plants, sounds or music would play. No visible wires. How does this magic happen? It was incredible, and we speculated that vibrations from touching the leaves triggered the sounds.

At this point in our adventure we decided to put our names on the sign up lists for the VR experiences so that we wouldn’t have to wait too long. Wonderspaces has this really nifty application on a tablet where visitors type in their name, phone number, and the number of people in their group to be added to the list. Once completed, the app sends a text message to the visitors phone letting them know when it is their turn for the VR experience. This gave us ample opportunity to visit another installation while we waited. No fear of losing our spot or missing our turn!

While we waited we went and explored In To The Breath by Stefano Ogliari Badessi.

A remarkably calming experience despite the vibrant color and being in an enclosed space. I get anxious sometimes if I am in an enclosed space with a bunch of people. The enclosure appears to be made of recycled plastic materials such as plastic bags.

Not long after we exited the In To The Breath installation, it was our turn for BengFangs’ Never Ends VR experience. This actually was my first real VR art experience. I loved the electronic dance music so much I caught myself tapping my foot. The visuals were a little overwhelming for me at times almost to a point where I considered taking the VR goggles off, but I held on and still enjoyed the experience.

That is not me in this photograph by the way. My good friend Corinne was kind enough to let me photograph her on our adventure.

After BengFangs’ Never Ends we signed up for the second VR experience available at Wonderspaces. While we waited we walked through The Border by Carolin Wanitzek.

Some truly beautiful paper recreations of landscape and insects. I was in awe of the craftsmanship.

Then we went and checked out Body Paint by Memo Akten.

The installation is very visually appealing and fun to watch as each person’s movement created splashes of different colored paint on the walls in front of them.

Once I received the text that it was our turn for the second VR experience we headed over. This experience was called Dinner Party by Skybound and RYOT.

Dinner Party invites visitors to sit at a table set for dinner where they watch a reimagining of the true story of Betty and Barney Hill retelling their story about being abducted by aliens. This experience was a little emotionally triggering for me, and frightening, but I also became really fascinated with the story. Later that evening I did some research into their stories and what became of them. It certainly wasn’t a happily ever after ending.

Right outside of the Dinner Party room is the Levitate installation by Everyware.

This installation features vertical plastic tubes lined up and leveled on a white wall. Each tube has a small black ball inside that floats up as visitors walk by. I am really intrigued by what mechanisms are used to make this possible. However, the museum professional in me was a bit peeved by some of the people around me who kept touching the installation despite the bold DO NOT TOUCH sign right next to the art. Seriously folks, don’t touch the art unless invited to do so! Perhaps Wonderspaces signage wasn’t clear enough, but people should know better.

On the opposite wall across the room from. levitate was TO DO by Illegal Art. A more engaging visitor experience than the rest of the installations in the museum. To Do is made up of thousands of yellow and pink post it notes stuck to the wall spelling out To Do. The installation asks visitors to grab a pen and write on a blank post it note something that is on their to do list. I have posted photos of what my friend and I wrote below.

A great reminder of the things I plan on accomplishing and the changes in myself I wish to make.

Moving on we entered a room where The Corridor by Toby Dye was playing on loop. On each wall of the square room as a video angle of different people at different points of a corridor. The videos playing across from each other were related in a couple different ways. I won’t reveal how, so you will just have to see for yourself.

Next door to The Corridor we found ourselves watching Filip Roca’s Volumen.

Entrancing and so satisfying to watch. I really enjoyed watching it all come together despite being played on separate panels.

At this point we only had a few installations left, and my desire for experience was not yet satisfied. Making our way to the next installation we found ourselves in the biggest room yet. Submergence by Squidsoup fits both the artwork and creators names. Much like tentacles coming down from the ceiling, strings of bulbs fill the room in measured rows just wide enough for people to walk through. Faint sounds play in the background as the strands light up in a various colors in an unknown pattern.

This was a huge challenge for me trying to photograph, and I still have much to learn. We didn’t stay in this room for too long as it filled up pretty quickly.

We then headed to Magnetic Field by Void.

Steel wool has been attached the wall with what sounds like an electric current running through the wool. The noise is makes almost sounds like static. Certainly a unique piece and nothing like I have seen before.

The final installation we viewed before we left the museum was Impulse by Martin Messier.

Impulse was the perfect final touch to our visit. I am still curious what materials were used to create it’s effects, and the music was so well received some of the visitors around me were dancing.

I definitely plan on coming back and bringing my son. He loved the experience last year and I know he would love it again!

If you are in the San Diego area Wonderspaces is a must!

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