Conceptual Art at its Most Playful

by Natalie Jacobs June 1, 2017


wonderspaces1When I think of Mission Valley I think of condos, Costco and contentious sports stadiums. Also traffic, my credit union, Target, that weird new indoor skydiving place and more condos. I’m pretty sure it’s not just me who would say contemporary art in the ever-developing neighborhood doesn’t make total sense. But there is a big empty lot in the new Civita development that for the next two months will be home to a giant white tent filled with wonder. If you don’t allow yourself to look at the big Office Depot sign glittering across Friars Road, the art installation will temporarily transport you to 16 different, wildly fun realities.

wonderspaces3Wonderspaces offers conceptual art at its most playful. Each installation essentially has its own room within the 20,000 square-foot tent, giving first-time viewers the chance to be surprised and delighted over and over again. Carlsbad artist Adam Belt offers “A Religious Experience” in a pitch black room pierced with beams of light, that, when taken in at the right angle, truly feel like they penetrate the skin and offer glimpses into higher realms. German “intermedia artist” Karina Smigla-Bobinski explores the depths of interactive transitory art with “ADA” in which a helium-filled, coal-spiked orb floats or is pushed around a white-walled room. When the blob comes in contact with the walls, the charcoal makes a startled sound and leaves its mark in different ways depending on the force with which it hits. The room, therefore, is in constant flux.

Walk straight into the “Sweet Spot” by Shawn Causey and Mark Daniell and the meditative power of color blocks out pretty much all senses except sight, resulting in that feeling of the world melting away. Relying on geometry and color theory, the piece is an immersive experience that the artists say takes about four days to construct.

wonderspaces5After it takes off from San Diego on July 30, Wonderspaces will head on tour with three scheduled stops through next summer. The creators of the traveling art tent, Jason Shin and Patrick Charles, spoke with Kinsee Morlan at Voice of San Diego about their vision for a different model of showing and experiencing art. Morlan makes the point that the effort comes with huge upfront costs, which Shin and Charles are shouldering. Walking through the massive structure erected in a dirt lot, it’s clear they spared no expense. I mean, the porto-potties flush and the tent is reinforced with steel beams. So they’re charging $24 per ticket for the experience. It’s easy to see how an insecure art town like San Diego would blow this off as better suited for Black Rock City or the Coachella Valley, but risks like this make us art appreciators feel hopeful that new artful realities are still possible here.

*Photos from top to bottom: “Come Together” by Michael Murphy; “ADA” by Karina Smigla-Bobinski; “Not Myself Today” from Partners for Mental Health.

For more artful things to do this summer, check out our June issue


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