When Wonderspaces first premiered at the new Philadelphia Fashion District back in January, many flooded to go see the art gallery’s unique installations, many of which are interactive. For obvious reasons, after debuting this winter season, Wonderspaces had to shut down along with a plethora of other Philly organizations when COVID-19 hit the city, but with reopenings popping up left and right, it’s now the gallery’s turn to open their doors once again.
Wonderspaces features works of art that aren’t just there for pretty pictures—although there is more than enough opportunities to take a bunch—but it also highlights pieces that are set to spark conversation and ultimately have visitors feel apart of the art. With the summer in full swing, this indoor space offers a perfect opportunity to beat the heat and try something a bit different.
Probably the most eye-catching installation out of the 16 that call Wonderspaces home would be ‘Submergance’ by Squidsoup (a UK based open group of artists, researchers, technologists and designers), which also happens to be one of the first exhibits of art that you see after entering. Think a room filled with twinkling lights that ultimately overtakes everywhere you look. The 8,064 individual points of light continually change color and also provides an opportunity for visitors to step right into the heart of its beauty. The experience looks pretty in pictures, but really shines when you’re there in person.
‘Body Paint’ by Memo Atken also has an interactive flare that provides a stellar photo opportunity for those who are headed to Wonderspaces. This specific installation invites members out to use their bodies to express themselves through movement, dance or whatever they can think of. While moving, the piece moves and displays vast colors transforming each and every one of us into a work of art.
On the note of interactive and art transformation, there are two experiences at Wonderspaces that really take the cake when thinking about being submerged into a piece. One is a virtual reality experience that will take visitor’s senses on a journey and the other is a simple invitation to write words or thoughts that you had, but maybe never said or expressed.
‘Transition’ is a VR experience built around the music of Kettel & Secede. The website states, a metaphor for death, ‘Transition’ takes visitors on a journey from one world into the next. However, the experience is not one that is frightening at all, it’s actually quite peaceful. If that’s any precursor for what the afterlife might be, it’s truly nothing to be afraid of.
‘The Last Word’ comes from Illegal Art (a collective of artists whose goal is “to create participatory public art that inspires self-reflection, thought, and connection”) and provokes visitors to write down any emotion, thought, feeling or words they have left unsaid and leave it there. Some who come to Wonderspaces just read what others before have left behind, some write what they want and some do both. Whatever way, it provides a bit of release for those who participate.
Other experiences to immerse yourself in includes ‘Come Together’ by Michael Murphy (a piece of art made to resemble a fist), ‘Sun’ by Phillip Shutte, ‘Myrkvidr’ by Yasuhiro Chida, ‘Blooms’ by John Edmark and more.
Of course, there will also be safety regulations as well, including limiting amount of visitors, heavily cleaning installations, mandatory wearing of masks and more.
“Our staff across the country and here in Philadelphia have been working since the early days of the global pandemic to create new protocols to keep our visitors and staff safe and healthy,” said Wonderspaces President Jason Shin in a statement. “We have also worked with artists to ensure that masks and new protocols work in tandem with the interactivity of the exhibits. Last, we are proud to debut two new installations to the Philadelphia community.”
One of the two new exhibits is ‘Human Study #1 3RNP’ by Patrick Tresset which, according to the release, is an installation where the human becomes a model and a trio of robots become the artist. In a scene reminiscent of a life drawing class, visitors sit to be sketched from three perspectives by three robots. The 20 minute drawing session becomes a performance for other visitors to observe, and the finished drawings are then displayed and become part of the installation.
The other new addition is ‘Ferreflection Pool’ by Mesplé. This installation combines real-time video interpolation, microprocessors and 320 electromagnets to create reflective silhouettes of a viewer’s moving body. Everything is spiked and triggered by movement.
Wonderspaces will reopen its doors Friday at noon. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Tickets, memberships and health/safety information are available online at philadelphia.