Simple Travels: Wonderspaces San Diego 2018

I kicked off my summer vacation with a visit to one of my favorite interactive art museums in California. Wonderspaces in San Diego is a pop-up art exhibit that features different immersive pieces every year by artists around the world. I'll be referencing from many of last year's installations, so if you haven't read my entry on 2017's featured set of artworks, head over here! Shameless self-plugging aside, let's dissect the gravity of this year's pieces.
Black Balloons by Tadao Cern
 Black Balloons is a simple yet playful sculpture that adds rigidity to an otherwise dynamic object. The monochromatic color scheme ties together the minimalist look of the piece, but the nature of the object still adds a touch of childlike discovery that gives further character to Tadao's work. 
Impulse by Martin Messier
I didn't get to observe this one up close for very long, but I think it's meant to be experienced at a distance to grasp the overall illusion of the piece. It somewhat reminds me of Karina Smigla-Bobinski's ADA, an analog installation from last year that bridged computerized components with everyday interaction. Similarly, Martin Messier's Impulse incorporates a technological twist by imitating the functioning of the brain, particularly the propagation of nerve impulses. The eerie, erratic rhythm and pulsing pattern of lights elicit an electrifying effect on the sensory systems, appealing especially to auditory and visual senses.
Volumen by Filip Roca
This is remarkably similar to last year's Daydream V2 in its trance-inducing, audiovisual concept. I didn't get to capture an aesthetically pleasing shadow shot this time, but it's essentially the same view and experience. It's not as trippy or psychedelic as Nonotak's work from the previous year, but the optical illusions are nonetheless stimulating to a new spectator.
Body Paint by Memo Akten
 Memo Akten's Body Paint is the most interactive piece in this year's exhibit, which was an absolute pleasure to watch. These kids played and danced against the massive watercolored panel that moved along with any animated motion of the spectator. The ephemeral splashes of color are painted by the motion and energy of the body, diverting the focus from yielding the final output during the creative process to experiencing the moment instead. I'm glad that live photos exist because I was able to really capture the vibrancy and liveliness of this work.  
The Border by Carolin Wanitzek
This is possibly the least stimulating work in the exhibit simply because it's not quite as captivating as others. While Wanitzek beautifully crafted this whimsical forest that bridges fantasy and reality, it didn't seem to fit in a museum as riveting and interactive as Wonderspaces.
Submergence by Squidsoup
Submergence is clearly the busiest attraction for millennials and for good reason. I'm sure many of you know by now how light installations make me feel, so I was definitely most looking forward to experiencing this ethereal work. Squidsoup's immersive walkthrough piece simulates the collision of virtual and physical worlds through its gradually intensifying display of lights. The escalation of the evolving piece was accompanied by chiming melodies and dynamic movements. My boyfriend captured these photos showcasing the distinct phases of the 12-minute work in which each elicits different elements and atmospheres, making this installation quite a compelling work of art. It was unquestionably my favorite piece from both last year's and this year's exhibits, and I honestly wish I had more time to walk through this stunning scene.      
Into the Breath by Stefano Ogliari Badessi
Into the Breath is a unique and brilliant take on recycled nomadic art. Badessi's style is inspired by his fascination with travel, culture, and common objects, all of which are embodied in this piece. He designs his abstract creations to be mobile and transportable to represent the expression of freedom, imagination, and curiosity that comes with traveling. This creation, in particular, is a Chinese culture-influenced work that mimics the inside of a dragon's breath using glistening cellophane pieces and Chinese take-out bags. Wandering through this vibrant balloon-like tunnel was surely an abstract space to experience.
To Do by Illegal Art (Photo from Wonderspaces Instagram)
Illegal Art's To Do is this year's participatory-based work that ignites self-reflection and human connection. It's composed of ordinary post-it notes that we typically put on our fridges to remind ourselves of the list of things that need to be done. Essentially, the concept invites a vast range of ideas ‑ from writing down mundane daily tasks to long-term life goals. While last year's The Last Word was far more intimate, personal, and emotionally driven, To Do is a simple and amusing take on public art as it's something everyone can relate to.
Akousmaflore by Scenocosme: Gregory Lasserre & Anais met den Ancxt
Last but not least, here's another one of my favorite interactive pieces. At first glance, I thought it was just a tasteful display of succulents that could easily be seen at an Anthropologie, but the plants actually produce various notes when touched gently. It's a fun way to personify and add more life to an already living thing, compelling the audience to closely interact with the plants like a musical instrument. The execution of this piece is quite fascinating as it bridges digital technologies with nature's creation, which I think is what intrigued me the most.
Hoshi by Nonotak Studio (Photo from Wonderspaces website)
There were a few more installations that I didn't get to either experience or capture on camera such as Hoshi, Levitate, Magnetic Field, and the VR films, so make sure to check out the lineup on the Wonderspaces website to read up on the substance behind these brilliant artists' works. Hoshi was especially one that I regret missing because it seemed like it would've been an entrancing sight to experience. I don't know how, but we somehow overlooked this piece or just forgot to go back to it, but I guess watching this 360° VR footage allowed me to vicariously immerse in it. 

In all honesty, most of these installations are no match for last year's poignant, thought-provoking pieces. I wouldn't say I'm disappointed ‑ aesthetically, they're just as Instagram-worthy but they certainly lack quite a bit in substance and novelty. To be fair, I was on a time crunch of only an hour to explore the space. Perhaps, I wasn't in the right mindset to truly immerse myself in the pieces and devote ample time to process and analyze my emotional reactions. Also, last year was my first time actually experiencing captivating immersive art that induces unique perceptions and sensations, so I suppose it moved me more profoundly than this year. I already somewhat knew what to expect despite the entirely new set of displays, so I wasn't nearly as fascinated nor impressed as a whole. 

Nonetheless, it's still worth the travel and a vision to see especially if you're a stranger to interactive, immersive exhibits. With that said, feel free to take my commentary with a grain of salt because this is just my overly critical tendency to scrutinize something I'm strongly passionate about. I'm prone to absorb unique, riveting art in a way that affects me mentally and emotionally given my personal falling out with that aspect of my upbringing. To compensate, art museums have become a way for me to be in touch with my artistic side that I no longer hone as much as I used to. I'll always support innovative and creative ideas that these evolving artists are contributing to society, so I'm definitely still looking forward to what's in store for Wonderspaces next year. 

Make sure to grab your tickets fast because they sell out as soon as they're available. 
'Til next time!




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