What is immersive art? While there might not be a distinct and universally agreed upon definition, immersive art is space that typically activates other senses beyond the visual sense. Oftentimes immersive art pieces include the viewers as part of the art itself, creating art as a holistic experience.
Wonderspaces opened in the Philadelphia Fashion District Jan. 24 and provides an immersive and interactive art experience for its viewers. The 24K square foot exhibit has two floors of rooms and art exhibits including a spectrum of technology-based art. On hand staff are in each exhibit area, to guide viewers and explain how the technology functions to create illusions and experiences through the finalized piece. A bar is also located near the entrance of the exhibit as viewers were allowed to walk around with drinks to experience the various art.
“Submergence” by Squidsoup might be the most pictured scene judging from Wonderspaces ad campaign and Instagram tags. Lights hang from the ceiling and perform a 12-minute light show reminiscent of underwater florescence or rainforest vines. Accompanied by subtle music, viewers can walk between and touch the string lights and watch the lights turn on sporadically and change color.
Two Virtual Reality exhibits are offered in Wonderspances including “Dinner Party” by Laura Wexler, Charlotte Stoudt and Angel Soto as well as “Daydream V.2” by NONTAK studio. While both utilized the same medium using VR technology they proved to be wildly different overall experiences.
“Dinner Party” introduced viewers to a real physical room that appeared to be a set dinner table where the VR headsets are placed. The virtual reality itself took place in a dining room setting as friends gathered around to enjoy a seemingly harmless night. The show took a turn when the hosting couple began sharing a disturbing story of an unbelievable out-of-body experience. The visual presents an interpretation from a real recorded account of the couple. The exhibit extended not just within the VR headset, but within the room itself, engaging the viewer to consider the time period the story was told in as well as the formality of the story being shared at a dinner party.
“Daydream V.2” had a different approach, headsets were set up in a dark room of benches. As soon as the headset is put on, viewers enter a meditative journey on a boat with a dog. It feels similar to entering a new dimension as the boat flips underwater completely while the viewer continues to experience the surrounding environment. This exhibit left viewers tranquil and curious, as opposed to “Dinner Party” which left people feeling removed and alarmed.
The two reactions invoked by the two VR experiences seem fitting in an interactive space. It’s almost as if the artist is attempting to create a specific response among viewers. It is evident that the same medium can easily be manipulated to create completely different experiences and reactions. Each of the 14 exhibits in Wonderspaces taps into different emotions and makes different people react in different ways.
Take one exhibit entitled “The Last Word” by Illegal Art. Rolled up pieces of paper were tucked into a wooden wall piece that encouraged viewers to take one and write the words the wished they had said at the end of an argument. While some participants engaged with writing, other viewers could take a piece of paper and read what others had written. Some shared personal and emotional stories, while others wrote short encouraging words for others to find. Almost like a glass bottle in the ocean, the words were meant to be eventually read by a stranger in the future.
A tremendous amount can be said about the Wonderspaces exhibit. Each of the 14 exhibits were excellent and encouraged curiosity and adventure. The show brings out the little kid in us all and allows imagination and creativity to thrive within the confines to the two story space. Admission for students is $20 while adults pay $24. Plan to spend approximately 75-90 minutes in the space to fully experience each exhibit. I highly recommend this truly fun and imaginative exhibit.