Filled with brilliant light shows, “Parallel Universe” at Artechouse presents a moving fusion of art and technology that interrogates the still-undeveloped possibilities of multisensory experiences.
Art is supposed to evoke sensation, and the “Parallel Universe” exhibit at Artechouse, an experimental art gallery located near L’Enafnt Plaza, is an overwhelming sensory experience that certainly accomplishes this goal. When you exit the tucked-away, sparsely decorated lobby and pass the augmented reality cocktail bar to descend into the dimmed “innovative art space,” the swirling fractals and light beams that project designs onto the walls are stunning.
“Parallel Universe,” the first solo retrospective exhibit from Turkish new media art studio, Ouchhh, opened Jan. 18. The exhibit is inspired by science, mathematics and astrology, and attempts to use unique forms of digital media to create a space and atmosphere that feel out of this world.
Visitors sit in plush bean bag chairs, surrounded by a massive canvas of fascinating moving fractals and enveloped by eerie, pulsating music. It is hard to hear yourself think, so all visitors can do is take in the environment, unless they spend their one-hour viewing slot sitting against the wall to take an array of artsy Instagram photos.
The installation is an intense multisensory experience, but it is surprisingly calming. In an adjoining room, visitors can gather around a silver hemisphere inserted in the ground that reflects a light show onto the floor around it.
Hidden in the back of the space is an enclosed room with dynamic lights surrounding an inverted pyramid jutting out of the ceiling. Perhaps the most exciting of the exhibits, these lights, which are stationed on poles throughout the room, move with the music and combine with stationary bulbs along the edges of the pyramid to create a visual spectacle, alluding to the alleged correlation between the Giza Pyramids and Orion’s Belt.
Scholars such as Belgian author, lecturer and Ancient Egypt researcher Robert Bauval believe that the three Pyramids of Giza were constructed as an earthly representation of the constellation Orion’s belt. Although the theory is disputed, the interaction between the lights and the pyramids in “Parallel Universe” is a clear reference to this ancient mystery.
While the installation’s meaning and wider relevance are unclear, it does well at curating a particular energy and provides a one-of-a-kind experience. “Parallel Universe” excels aesthetically but lacks substance as you look deeper.
The installation feels as though it is meant solely to be seen and heard rather than analyzed and understood. To this end, words do not do the installation justice — just as one cannot picture the reality of a parallel universe.
Artechouse describes itself as an “innovative arts space,” avoiding the term museum because it is unlike any traditional museum experience. Almost everything about the space is the counterpoint to most typical institutions. It is a smaller space meant for singular, short-term exhibits. This minimalistic use of space enhances the visual and aural effects to mesmerizing levels.
Rather than being a location to merely showcase works of art, the space itself functions as a conduit for Ouchhh’s vision — it becomes the art. On the other hand, the small space works against the exhibit’s potency, as the repetitive imagery allows the viewer to effectively see everything there is to see well before the hour has passed. It is intriguing at first, but a visitor can only look at so many fractals before losing interest.
“Parallel Universe” is not for everyone, as more traditional viewers might be turned off by the modern media, lack of substantial thematic goals and overbearing grasps at scientific connections. Still, the installation is impressive, and succeeds in presenting its aesthetic vision and playing with space. Whether you go to snap a few pictures with a wavy backdrop or just to experience something new, “Parallel Universe” is a compelling visit.
“Parallel Universe” is open daily until March 4, with special viewings for 21+ crowds after 5:30 p.m. General admission adult tickets are $15; tickets for students, seniors and military ID Holders are $12; and tickets for children 12 years old and under are $8.