A Trippy Immersive Art Experience at Artechouse
A new kind of art exhibit opened in Washington D.C. and you best believe I was all over it.
Artechouse is a new immersive art studio featuring digital motion graphic art by world renowned artists from all over the world. This one of a kind museum takes the best of technology and combines it with experiential digital art that immerses visitors into the exhibit through light, sound and color. I was immediately intrigued, for I have never experienced an immerse art exhibition before, so I bought two tickets for the Parallel Universe exhibit by the artist, Ouchhh.
The tickets were bought online and I had to reserve a specific time. This was convenient because then we knew that we would be able to make it inside without a wait, but we could also have a solid plan of when to leave (we live about an hour outside the city). Once we made it to DC, parked and found the museum, it was about 10 minutes before our reservation. I have this timing thing down to an art.
We walk inside to find several other groups of people waiting along with a receptionist desk to the right where we were prompted to check in. We were told that while we waited, we should download the Artechouse app which would allow us to take photos and videos of the exhibit while experiencing live, augmented reality. What a cool concept. Then we waited off to the side as the room continued to fill up to around 20-30 people.
About five minutes after our scheduled time, we were asked to gather around a woman for further instruction. She was as "artsy" as it gets—big thick rimmed glasses, long hair reaching her lower back, tattoo sleeves, hemp bracelets up her arm and decked out in all black. She told us that we would be heading into the exhibit and continued to give us the lay of the land.
There would be 4 different rooms, each with a different experience. There is a bar upstairs offering specialty cocktails and we were free to peruse the rooms as we pleased. Without further adieu, she turned her back to us and we followed her like little imprinted ducklings down a dark staircase, eager to see what this unknown world would behold.
When we reached the bottom of the stairs, we had officially reached the exhibit entry, judging by the large painted wall displaying the background story and inspiration behind the project. Then she opened the door to a seemingly dark space and we watched as people began to flood in. We decided to hang back a little bit to avoid the rush and to grab some fun photos in front of the wall. Once the crowd had cleared, we held our breath and entered the main exhibit.
Upon crossing the threshold of the hallway, we found ourselves in a large auditorium-like space with large ceilings, covered in projectors of all kinds. The walls were dancing with lines and shapes, bright lights and stunning contrasts. Our eyes feasted. Once we settled into our environment, we actually had a chance to look around. The center of the room contained several large, comfy bean bag chairs which we shuffled towards immediately after seeing another couple get up. We plopped into the bean bags and sat there for 5-10 minutes, consumed by the light and motion around us.
There was a satisfying emotional release that happened while watching the exhibit, you feel as though you are traveling through space and time. It was quite incredible. The huge screens made me feel so small, especially laying down and looking up from floor level. There was so much going on, my eyes and brain were doing their best to follow along and create almost a story-like timeline in my head. It was dizzying and fast moving, yet somehow super satisfying.
I was loving it, but I could tell Rob may have been either bored or needed a break from the intensity. I will admit that this is not the type of activity for someone prone to seizures. It's a lot.
Rob nudged me and motioned behind us. My gaze followed his gesture and was met by the bar, to which I immediately nodded my head yes. We walked up the stairs and ordered two glasses of wine, and sat from above, marveling at the spectacle from a new perspective. The drink menu also included the specialty drinks, as mentioned and we were to view the menu through our augmented reality app. It was kind of cool to see lines and light twirling across the paper menu and suddenly it was so alive. Though interesting and unique, I didn't really get as much out of the augmented reality that I wanted to. It just didn't do it for me. We sat silent for a long time just soaking it in while also taking photos and videos from this birds eye view vantage point. Soon enough, our wines were down and we were ready to check out the next rooms and activities.
We ventured to the less crowded, right hand side, and saw what looked like a spinning wheel with a reflective orb in the center. It was cool, yet odd and slightly underwhelming? I realized then that no other aspect of this experience could compare to the big exhibit room and the feeling that overcame me when I emerged from the hallway. We snapped some photos and then made our way across the auditorium to the other side, which was *supposed* to have 2 more installations for us to check out.
One of the *other* installations was literally so insignificant I can't even remember what is was. I believe it was something with the floor, like a hopscotch situation, where it would change as you walked across it. I now understand that this was probably like a filler installment to get to the next one, which would be more like a structured show.
We decided to wait in line for this which was about 10 minutes, or the length of the presentation. I was excited and nervous at the same time because lots of people in a small dark room with laser sharp, blinding lights all around would make anyone in their right mind a little weary. Luckily, we made it into the next group instead of having to wait for another 10 minutes like the group of 3 right behind us.
I'll start by saying I did NOT enjoy this last installment. We filed into this room and all sat in a circle around this giant lazer thing that looked like an actual robot. I don't have any photos because I'm pretty sure they asked us to not use cellphones because the light would interfere with the art or whatever. Not like there was anything to take pictures of anyways. The show was basically a laser light show on crack, timed specifically and angled to create some cryptic message. I have no idea what the story was trying to tell or even what the point of it was, but I was so glad to get out of there when it ended.
Overall, it was a very unique experience as I had expected, however it wasn't THE experience I was expecting. I don't know if my hopes were set too high or what but I wanted so much more out of it. The best part by far was the big installation in the main room, but besides that, it wasn't all that special. Tickets were a little steep for what it actually was, and the drink prices were an absolute joke.
The redeeming factor is the fact that these digital art installations switch out every few months, allowing new artists to takeover the space and make it their own. This is going to be the only reason they keep on attracting visitors. The novelty and excitement surrounding the concept is enough to draw someone in. I mean hey, look at me. After experiencing it once, I don't know if I'll find myself attending another installation unless it really strikes a chord in my soul.
Has anyone else visited Artechouse? What exhibits did you see?