Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Meow Wolf

Today I visited Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you are not familiar with it, Meow Wolf provides both a massive art installation and a colossal piece of immersive theatre.

Known as The House of Eternal Return, the installation was launched with support from George R.R. Martin, the author of Game of Thrones, so there is definitely a storytelling aspect to it. However, some visitors prefer to simply walk around and take in the aesthetics.

As you enter, you see a two-story house, but an anomaly in space and time his fractured it. A refrigerator opens into another world, you can crawl right through the fireplace like it's a Magritte painting, and if you slide down a shoot in the back of a dryer, you might find out where all those lost socks ended up.

Unlike other works of immersive theatre, such as Sleep No More, there are no performers. There are, however, staff members in white lab coats to ensure people's safety, and they can aid you if you need to get out of the installation and back to normalcy. I overheard one person asking about the audience, and the man in the lab coat clarified that there was no audience here, only participants.

Each participant ultimately makes his or her own experience, but there is a story behind the house, if you want to look for it. My sister told me to look in the mailbox, but when I did, there was nothing in it. When I went to the living room, however, I found a brown envelope with some documents inside. "Do those help?" a woman asked.

I said I didn't know if they helped, but they were interesting, as they did seem to shed some light on the anomaly that had disrupted a seemingly normal house.

Meow Wolf provides worlds to explore, but it also provides a story. You might encounter that story's beginning, middle, and end, though not necessarily in that order. In addition to the documents in the envelope, there are notes left throughout the house, journals you can flip through, even appointment books you can examine. There are also video screens with headphones that supply an interesting narration of at least one version of the events leading to the fracturing of the house.

Children are welcome, and although there are dark aspects to the story, the kids won't necessarily pick up on them. Older people and folks with limited mobility might find it more difficult to navigate the rooms, though. Some spaces are small, but when you squeeze through, there's usually something fascinating waiting for you on the other side.

If you start getting sensory overload, you can always take a break in the café outside the installation, and if you want to go back in later, you can. That means even if you're not sure Meow Wolf is going to be your thing, there is little risk in giving it a try.