Arts / VR

Instagram-friendly Wonderspaces in the Fashion District uses tech to up interactivity

The immersive art venue uses virtual reality, motion sensors, light and sound to engage visitors.

"Submergence" by Squidsoup at Wonderspaces. (Photo by Paige Gross)

The new Wonderspaces art venue off of 11th and Market streets in the Fashion District isn’t just an Instagram playground (although it certainly lends itself well to a fun shot in portrait mode).

The venue, which recently set up shop in Philadelphia after stints in San Diego and Scottsdale, Arizona, has long-term plans to be a part of Philly’s art scene. And it’s doing so through tech that Wonderspaces cofounder and President Jason Shin says makes the experience more accessible.

Although Shin said the exhibits aren’t a “tech show,” the staff uses technology to help facilitate inclusion and interactivity.

The 24,000-square-foot gallery currently holds 14 pieces from artists around the world and vary in technology use from none at all like “The Last Word” by Illegal Art, which encourages visitors to write and leave behind last words they wish they would have said to someone, to the heavy tech inclusion in “Dinner Party” by Charlotte Stoudt, Laura Wexler and Angel Soto, a 13-minute virtual reality experience about Betty and Barney Hill, the couple who reported the first nationally known UFO abduction case in America in the 1960s.

“Dinner Party” by Charlotte Stoudt, Laura Wexler and Angel Soto. (Photo by Peter Pascucci, courtesy of Wonderspaces)

One of the most enchanting exhibits, “Submergence,” involves 8,064 individual LED lights, following different patterns and movements as visitors walk through them. It was created by UK-based group Squidsoup, who Shin said researched audiovisual technologies and programs to create the piece.

Because the artists are all around the world, Wonderspaces’ staff have to know exactly how to execute an exhibit, Shin said, whether its instructing how to use “SUN,” an interactive installation that allows visitors to control the movement of the rise and setting of the sun with a ball, or “Transition,” another VR experience.

The technology and the guides that lead visitor experience are set up to be interactive and accessible. Unlike other art galleries, the staff here encourage you to touch and play with the art.

“The guides who run the shows are the center of everything we do. They’re the ones who deliver the art work to the visitors on behalf of the artists every day,” Shin said. “We do everything we can to prepare them to be successful in the presentation of the work, including operating and troubleshooting the technical pieces, how to best instruct visitors on facilitating what the artist intended.”

Body Paint by Memo Akten. Photo by Cat Coppenrath.

“Body Paint” by Memo Akten. (Photo by Cat Coppenrath, courtesy of Wonderspaces)

The current 14 exhibits will stick around for a little while, but starting in the spring, pieces will rotate out. Shin said that while the exhibits in other cities were temporary, he hopes to be in Philadelphia “forever.”

“We’re here for long-term relationships,” he said. “When we saw the excitement around art here and the opportunity to be on the East Coast, next to the Convention Center, above the trains right in the heart of the city, we saw so many wonderful reasons to make this our next home.”

Wonderspaces is open at 27 N. 11th St. Timed tickets cost $24.

Series: The Tech Behind

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