Seattle’s waterfront has always been beautiful, but now it shines all the more with a brand new, high-tech, art museum. WNDR (pronounced “wonder”) celebrates art and creativity in a completely different way by allowing patrons to not only view the art but by becoming part of it as well. With its black walls and bright electrical colors, it is not unlike walking through a giant Lite-Brite toy. Even the stodgiest guests will find themselves mesmerized and, if no one is looking, act like a child once again.
Seattle’s museum held its grand opening last week making it the third WNDR museum in the country following locations in Chicago and San Diego. Boston will be opening up their own WNDR museum real soon. While there are some traditional pieces of artwork on display, most feature elements of video, audio, lighting and even AI-generated work. The blend of art and technology is an interactive experience that uses almost all of one’s senses. It is uniquely different.
“Our message is simple,” states the WNDR website. “We are all artists. And as artists our visitors are more than passive onlookers. Whatever they do in our museum, IS art.”
It’s not a lot different from watching an improve show where the actors on stage call out to the audiences looking for suggestions to help build their next scene. People actually get to engage and are encouraged to do so.
Seattle’s WNDR features over 20 exhibits. Upon entering, you’re greeted with sort of a “wall of wisdom” (my words, not theirs) where you can put your thoughts on paper and post them on the wall for all to see – until someone else posts their thoughts in front of yours.
Coming around the corner, you’ll experience the Light Floor, created by WNDR Studios, which the museum describes as “our in-house team of curators and creators of art, experiential installations and digital content.” The hallway is lined with floor-to-ceiling mirrors on both walls and a floor that has been built with hundreds of pressure sensors. As your presences is detected, the floor will move as you do.
Around the corner you’ll come across a colorful and playful exhibit called “You Can Do Most Anything.” Created by Andy Arkley, the multi-layered artwork comes alive with lights and music when guests press the various buttons on a nearby keyboard. There is no right or wrong way to play.
Some exhibits present their art in context of a show. “Hyper Mirror”, by the artist known as HAZE, is said to “convey a connection between our physical and digital selves.” An unassuming door opens up to a small (but not claustrophobic) “infinity room” full of mirrors all around. According to the artist, virtual technology can cause one to dissociate from their physical body, losing oneself in the screens so to speak. Mirrors, on the other hand, can give one feedback on who they are and what they are experiencing. Hyper Mirror presents a two-minute long “show” merging a variety of images and colors that bounce off the mirrored walls, ceiling and floor. It’s mesmerizing to be sure.
In another room sits “Insideout” where another “show” is presented within a glowing shed. While you can catch this “show” from the outside (the walls are somewhat transparent) the better experience is to be found inside. Guests are encouraged to sit at the table and when ready, turn off a lightbulb. Sounds of rain, thunder and even a whirlwind take over your senses with abstract images flashing all around you. Soon you’ll find yourself in the middle of a “storm” that eventually subsides and the sun rises.
Another creative find is “Untitled by You” by Wolfbear. The concept here is that you can make up a title for and type it into a computer and a series of four or five images will be created and posted on the walls around use based on your ideas. You can even say an image that you’d like to see as imagined by a favorite artist. Then stand back and see what this AI machine can do.
Other exhibits you’ll find during your visit include a giant mosaic “Starry Pumpkin” created by Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama, a “Dream Sequence” wall where your shadows come alive in a variety of colors and shapes and wall where you can pick a famous painting like say, the Mona Lisa, and virtually tear it apart.
Unlike other art museums, photography is allowed and there are plenty of photo opps to make the perfect selfie. Of course, no trip is complete without a trip through the gift shop. Commemorate your visit at the photo booth or bring home a little piece of art in the form of a t-shirt, keychain, jewelry or other item.
WNDR Museum is located at 904 Alaskan Way open every day from 12-9 p.m. Is located in the Maritime Building right across from Ivar’s. It is open every day from 12-9 p.m. Tickets are $32 for adults, $22 for children ages 3-12 and kids age 2 and under get in free. Splurge for the VIP experience and you’ll receive an expedited entry, a limited-edition collector pin, WNDR photo memory, 10% off items at the WNDR Store and a WNDR “re-run” which allows you a “second lap” through WNDR before you’re ready to go.
Main image: “You Can Do Most Anything” (WNDR Museum)
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