• Melissa Lipari

A Pedacito of Philadelphia's Interactive Art Museum: Wonderspace

Just a few blocks from Philadelphia’s Center City, a two-story interactive art gallery has opened in the Fashion District Mall. Wonderspace is an immersive experience that challenges the traditionalism of art. With installations from various artists around the globe, Wonderspace celebrates art in all of its forms. I had the pleasure of visiting the museum this past weekend and enjoyed viewing the eclectic exhibits. With tickets priced at just $20-something for students, with all-day enjoyment, Wonderspace is an affordable take on modern art. My boyfriend and I enjoyed our experience, and I would love to share the immersive world of Wonderspace with the Pedacitos readers.

One of the interactive installations at Wonderspace
One of the interactive installations at Wonderspace

On the top floor of the museum, you can find several installations that challenge the body and mind. The “Sun” by Phillip Schutte is an art piece that requires a user to travel a motion censored ball across a room - to mirror the phases of the sun throughout the day. Another piece called “The Last Word” by Illegal Art is a giant honeycomb structure that requires visitors to write down a last word - and slip it into one of the honeycombs. Visitors are given a slip of paper and a sanitized pencil before reaching the installation, where they can spill their guts anonymously. The last word can either be a paragraph or truly just one word, but once it is placed inside the honeycomb, it is “removed” from your thoughts. It was a therapeutic but also striking exhibit - because guests can read the notes of past visitors. Some of the notes were rather dark, while others just drew silly doodles or thanked loved ones for their final word. When the honeycomb is full, the artist will take it back and read all of the notes.

"The Last Word" installation at Wonderspace
"The Last Word" installation at Wonderspace

The museum also featured virtual reality exhibits that challenged the aspect of time. “Transition” by Joost Jordens and Mike Von Rotz was a VR experience that showed a journey of epic proportions, allowing the viewer to travel from different realities. In the end, the experience is supposed to symbolize the journey from life to death - and the infinite possibilities that could come after. My boyfriend and I were both stunned by this experience because death was not even something that we associated with the piece. We felt calm and tranquil, which was perhaps another goal from the artists. It is very clear with VR, that art can be completely subjective.

Trying my hand at drawing at Philadelphia's interactive art museum
Trying my hand at drawing at Philadelphia's interactive art museum

Aside from the physically immersive exhibits, there were plenty of installations that were for viewing purposes only. “Submerge” by Squidsoup was an art piece in a room full of lights that were triggered by sound. Every fifteen minutes or so, a song would play in the room and the lights would build with the music. It was interesting to see the installation being run by sound and nothing else. You could press on the lights or move them, but they wouldn’t turn on unless the song was playing. Another exhibit that I found interesting was the “Human Study” by Patrick Tresset. The “Human Study” was a robotic arm that could sketch pictures of guests using just a camera and the programming to draw. My boyfriend had his portrait drawn by the robot and it was about a 20-minute process. It was fascinating to see a robotic arm sketch a human without anyone else being present to guide it. For this installation, guests had to sit still in a chair and wait for the robot to be finished. When the drawing was over, the robot even signed his name as Paul!

Even during Covid, I was able to experience art at Wonderspace
Even during Covid, I was able to experience art at Wonderspace

There were so many wonderful exhibits that explored the human senses, particularly touch, in this museum. It was a refreshing place to go to when we have been told to hold back on using our sense of touch, during the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic. This was a place that encouraged users to touch everything and become physically drawn-in by their surroundings. Everything was sanitized frequently and there were sanitization stations - which was very important. Wonderspace was unique - completely different from any other museum I have ever attended. The website promises that they will stay in Philly and will continue to update their exhibits for visitors - despite the Pandemic. It seems like Wonderspace is here to stay, so I encourage anyone who wants to enjoy a different type of artistic experience to attend.

My boyfriend and I really enjoyed our time at Wonderspace
My boyfriend and I really enjoyed our time at Wonderspace
 

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