By Sandra Schulman
As trippy art experiences go, Artechouse rules. They have taken over an entire hotel on South Beach’s Collins Avenue and retrofitted it to house the installation of 10 interactive, retroactive, immersive hands on digital artworks.
Like the recent Banksy exhibit in Little River and The Museum of Ice Cream at Faena Arts in mid-Beach, this new moneyed trend of using entire buildings to showcase art for months at a time puts Miami on the micro-map of major cities that can attract and support this kind of show. This one has only been exhibited in Washington, D.C., opening in 2017.
Approaching the building in a bustling part of South Beach’s shopping district, there are projections running in the windows to give you an idea of the world you are about to enter. Stepping inside, it’s dark, walls and floors painted black with a droning New Agey sound humming in the air.
Push through the heavy black drapes and the funhouse begins. The director of visitor experiences, Lena Galperina, gives a tour, explaining how the pioneers of these interactive exhibits, Sandro and Tati (Sandro Kereselidze and Tatiana Pastukhova), designed this as a total immersive, cohesive experience.
The art destination’s principal exhibition, XYZT Abstract Landscapes, features 10 interactive installations of immersive storytelling that offer a full sensory experience. Walk on the floor and the dots zoom off into spiky shapes that scatter from your feet. Turn around and the huge screen on the wall reflects your body shape in those similar spikes. Move, wave your arms and turn around – the shapes react and mimic your being.
On a far wall your actual body appears in a delayed reaction life-size projection; turn, dance or jump and your extremities get swirled out into funhouse mirror-type shapes. A white digital tree blows out letters that form fast-moving sentences: Catch the poetry before it scatters in the imaginary wind. The whole projection goes through the screen to echo on the floor and wall behind it, making a beautiful shadow. Everything is white on black, giving a kind of stark purity to the room.
Upstairs is a catwalk that lets you observe people and installations below. Farther back are a series of fish tank-like objects on stands. Blow into the hole in the side and a series of digital “snake letters” slither their way into a real glass bottle. Galperina explains that this particular illusion is called “Pepper’s Ghost,” a special effects technique for creating transparent ghostly images that work by reflecting the image of an object off a sheet of plexiglas. This unusual effect has been a staple of theaters and haunted houses since a British scientist named John Pepper popularized it in the 1860s.
A tabletop digital display lets you run your hands over the surface to attract and/or repel shapes that shift in a cycle. It’s pretty mesmerizing to roll the shapes into balls or push them off to the far corners of the screen. At the back of the second floor is a giant transparent digital cube you walk into that lets you manipulate light particles to an intense soundtrack.
I really liked the room that contains a table of open-faced books. Download the app or use the provided iPad and the illustrations on the pages come to 3D life using augumented reality, a trippy technique that is also being used in a new mural down in Wynwood. Again the shapes react and move with your manipulation, becoming anything from a cube to a rain cloud to a school of fish.
An immersive installation room showcases Fractal Journey, by Julius Horsthuis, which transports you to mesmerizing 3D worlds that surround you on three sides with captivating visuals. It’s like being inside a Star Wars movie as they zoom through space to destroy the Death Star. Other scenes rush over flower-covered fields and into watery caves. This installation is in color, which feels like a huge breath of fresh air after all the intense black and white of the rest of the exhibit.
With exhibits this intensely interactive, Galperina says they keep the visitor level to a minimum so that only two or three people are at any one exhibit at a time.
“Some people come and stay here for hours,” she says. ‘They really get lost in it. But we discourage flash photography as it confuses the sensors and ruins the experience for other people.”
Indeed there were only about seven other people there, dancing and laughing wide-eyed at the self-created spectacles.
“With the opening of Artechouse, it is our goal to continue to make an impact on the international art scene and community by introducing the ultimate new age destination for arts and technology that will welcome both locals and world travelers for a one-of- a-kind artistic experience,” says co-founder Patsukhova.
Artechouse’s principal exhibition, XYZT Abstract Landscapes, will be open through Labor Day and features 10 interactive installations. Some rooms will transition to a new installation every two to three months, showcasing the works of other artists in the field of arts and technology. The space will be here “long term,” they say. As a cool dark respite from the candy-colored bustle and heat of South Beach, it’s quite a trip.
Artechouse is at 736 Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. For more information, visit www.miami.artechouse.com.