Natura Obscura, the much-hyped collaboration between Prismajic and the Museum of Outdoor Arts, is a curious mix of art and technology that requires viewers to interact with the installation in order to create their own magical, whimsical experience.
Comprising several large rooms that flow seamlessly into one another, Natura Obscura aims to provoke a new level of self-awareness and reflection through the generous use of spiritual quotes sprinkled throughout. Written on the walls and floor, as well as on ceramic leaves dangling from crafted trees and hidden in plain sight with UV-responsive paint, words of wisdom anchor the entire exhibit to art and nature and urge viewers to ponder their relationship with both.
It’s tempting to be whisked away by the novelty of the rooms, to move quickly and see what eye candy awaits around the corner, but it’s a relatively short journey to the end. Resist the urge to race through the experience and instead spend time looking, reading and thinking while allowing the suspense of wondering what’s next to build. Come on a day when you can take your time experiencing what Natura Obscura, a project over a year in the making, has to offer.
You’ll find lots of symbolism (and foam core) throughout Natura Obscura, but not much context or explicit detail about what you’re observing. Didactic labels would be out of place here, ruining the immersive experience. Instead, you interact with the environment through an augmented-reality app and black light flashlights. While the AR isn’t exactly mind-blowing, it still adds to the excitement of discovery and gives some context to what you’re experiencing. Don’t forget to check out the augmented-reality gift shop when you’re done, and look for the book that explains even more of the philosophy behind the art.
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Natura Obscura aims to tingle most of the senses, from sight and sound to touch and smell, and the walk-through experience is not intended to be a passive one. You're asked to interact with elements but advised to use caution, as this simulated world of fantasy has a very delicate construction. Parents must supervise children under the age of sixteen at all times and act as their tour guide, helping them to notice all the small details and surprises hidden along the way in a treasure hunt for tiny forest friends and bits of wisdom the artists have hidden throughout.
Your admission to Natura Obscura includes a handful of ancillary rooms that have a distinctly different vibe but are relevant to the exhibit’s theme of nature and wonderment. "The Archive," a long, narrow hallway filled with clocks, oddities and curiosities, allows you to explore the wonder of fairy tales. If you’ve been to the Denver Art Museum, you’ll surely recognize the spikey, inflatable work of Nicole Banowetz in "Simulacra Vision." Take a seat and meditate on the serene, engrossing sights and sounds of the 28-minute looping video presentation of From Canyon to Cosmos: A Monk Dreams.
Before going in, consult the exhibit pamphlet to understand the placement of these rooms in relation to the main exhibit. Think of them as a palate cleanser, and when you’ve viewed all five, take another pass through the Natura Obscura rooms to see what you missed or overlooked the first time around.
Timed ticketing keeps occupancy levels to no more than forty to fifty people in the exhibit at all times. With so much to see, explore and engage, you'll need adequate space on your turn.
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