Exploring Wonderspaces: A collection of immersive art installations in Scottsdale, Arizona
By Danielle Steele, Staff Writer
Over the holidays, I flew to Arizona for some quality time with my older sister. She and her husband recently moved to the Phoenix metropolitan area. If you didn’t know, Phoenix is a hub for the creative arts. Naturally, the three of us headed out to a temporary exhibit in Scottsdale, Arizona called Wonderspaces. Inside the attraction were art installations that made me question my own sanity. I’d like to share a few highlights from the exhibit and explore similar experiences one might find at home in Calgary.
During our visit to Wonderspaces, we noticed a common theme looming in each piece: the impending destruction of humankind. Quick to grab our attention were three small robots, each with a ballpoint pen in “hand.” The robots were sketching portraits of another gallery attendant sitting across from them. Once finished, the drawings would be added to a collection of over 36,000 portraits drawn by the robots. Patrick Tresset from Brussels, Belgium created the piece titled, Human Study #1, 3 RNP. A small collection of portraits was on display and I was immediately reminded that being human is not only an individual experience but a collective one.
Subsequently, Reed van Brunschot’s installment intensifies one detrimental event that affects us all. The piece is titled Thank You Bags. Brunschot uses fans to inflate two larger-than-life shopping bags, making an Instagram-worthy scene. According to the Wonderspaces website, the piece is meant to, “Warrant introspection to. . .the excess of capitalism and its residual environmental waste by being caught in its beauty.”
Each installment left its mark on me but the most impactful was a digital art piece titled, Micromonumental Mapping, The Essence of Creation. The piece consists of miniature ancient Greek architecture and intricate light projections. A simple trap beat plays as shape, movement and colour overcome the miniature building. The projections display beautiful geometric patterns that quickly dissipate into a fiery storm. The structure is symbolically destroyed, then repaired, but an unsettling element still settles in the new model. This piece was created by Limelight, a collective of artists specializing in light and digital art. In their own words, Limelight hopes to raise awareness through their art pieces. Limelight’s installment had a message that was loud and clear: simply rebuilding what’s been destroyed doesn’t fix the problem.
After the exhibit, I couldn’t comprehend how these artists had affirmed our own extinction, especially with such confidence. I was afraid at first, but oddly comforted knowing others sensed such doom. This emotion and appreciation are why I will always seek out poignant art. At Wonderspaces, every installation had a unique impact.
Immersive Art in Calgary
Luckily, we don’t have to go far to find impactful art in Calgary. Until Feb. 6, Vivek Shraya’s Legends of the Trans will be on display at Esker Foundation. The exhibit is a collection of 22 photographs depicting the artist herself, celebrating her queerness and non-conforming gender. The work features music and text on screen inspired by the film Legends of the Fall. The art piece is a street-facing projection that can be found on Ninth Avenue outside of Esker. The projection is best viewed after sunset, until 11 p.m.
Another local Calgary artist to keep an eye on is Big Art. The collective designs and builds large scale, immersive art installations. In December, they introduced Calgary to The Tunnel in Victoria Park. This installation immersed its visitors in a beautiful tunnel of light and colour. Big Art hasn’t announced their next project yet, but I recommend following their social media, @bigartworks, to stay in the loop.
If you want to support a local artist but don’t know how, interacting with their social media is a great way to do so. This is as easy as a like, follow or comment.
Evidently, art is vital to our communities. It brings people together, raises awareness and challenges society at times. One must do what they can to preserve Calgary’s flourishing art sector.