If you visited the blockbuster Natura Obscura exhibit at the Museum of Outdoor Arts last year, you’re already familiar with the vibe inside Shiki Dreams, the newest installation by Prismajic. Coined as “immersive” — a finicky label that in this case involves a technology-assisted scavenger hunt through a fairytale-like world — Shiki Dreams expands on one of the characters found in Natura Obscura. But it doesn't stray too far from the original.
“We see it as a respite from the world,” says Jennifer Mosquera, one of the two co-founders of Prismajic. “We are playing with the same ideas we did before, with supporting the body through light, sense, sound.”
Shiki Dreams offers immediate transport from a busy side street into the installation (for an admission price of $14 per person and a half-hour inside). There aren’t antechambers, just a small trailer out front to check in and receive instructions before entering the transformed space.
“One of the things we’re really interested in is tempering the crazy — from the outside world, traffic, everyday things — and bringing some wonder and creativity as well as some calm to people,” Mosquera explains.
At that level, Shiki Dreams succeeds. The 1,200-square-foot pop-up installation offers five rooms in dim lighting, with scents evoking the smell of a dense forest. It’s calming to those who appreciate nature, and it will enchant those who haven’t seen anything by Prismajic before.
But it’s not significantly distinct from Natura Obscura. If it were just the duo we know as Prismajic creating it, Mosquera and Eric Jaenike, then that wouldn’t be as much of a surprise. Instead, Prismajic employs dozens of artists, fabricators and scent experts to create its immersive installations. And the overlapping creators for Natura Obscura and Shiki Dreams are fewer than ten.
“There was a good overlap of artists who worked on both,” Jaenike says. “Some of the artists have worked with us for years. We are always evolving our vision and our capabilities though,” so other creators are added on as the need arises, including animators and musicians.
The biggest difference between Shiki Dreams and Natura Obscura is that each participant receives a headset, with a soundtrack composed by Ben Glichowski and Zac Hazelwood that changes every time you enter a new room. The ambient sounds fill the void and block noise from other people exploring the space, encouraging participants to retreat inwards.
Though the music and Maya Dite-Shepard's animations can be attributed to specific artists, it’s harder to figure out who contributed what to the rest of the installation.
“It’s so difficult, because there are very few pieces that one artist created alone," Mosquera notes. "The work is highly collaborative. And that’s how we choose our team, too. There’s not a lot of ego here. Everybody gets behind the idea that we’re creating something together. There’s bits and pieces of every one of us in here, so it ends up being a mosaic."
Individual works aren't attributed to specific artists, Jaenike adds.
“It makes it more profound to work on something like this together. Everyone is learning new skills as we go through it. There’s plenty of things in here that I personally can’t make. But getting to be at the helm and saying, 'Let’s try this,' and finding people who make it happen, that’s really fun,” Mosquera says.
Mosquera and Jaenike have spent years orchestrating collaborations. Before Prismajic started in 2012, they transformed the same storefront that Shiki Dreams resides in now into various installations for more than a decade, starting with a company called Art Salon. Creating immersive experiences has always been at the forefront of what they do, whether they were hosting Robot Prom or curating themed art show where attendees were encouraged to wear costumes, or a fairytale-like forest akin to Natura Obscura. According to Jaenike, what Prismajic is trying to accomplish reaches far beyond the mission of any individual artist and beyond the previous goals of the studio space and salon.
“Prismajic is a company that harnesses the power of art to transform how people see themselves in the world," he explains. "We are all subservient to that vision. So in that sense, it’s more about moving that vision forward and implementing that vision in the world than saying, ‘this is my work.'"
In that vein, Shiki Dreams asks participants to come on a journey guided by the ethos of Prismajic. And in Mosquera and Jaenike’s view, this is only the beginning of a sequence of connected pieces that we can look forward to.
“Eventually we will build a large permanent facility, and this is all in service of that goal. That will let us implement our vision of bringing something truly positive to the world,” says Jaenike.
Until then, see the collaborative work of Heather Amador, Sarah Black, Antonio Concepcion, Hannah Conlisk, Andrew Corke, Kenyon Dellecave, Maya Dite-Shepard, John Gains, Ben Glichowski, Zac Hazelwood, Justin Kedl, Tawnia Jones, Mark Laramee, Andon Malone, Sean Morris, Amy Pankenier, Cassie Raub, Zayne Rust, Steve Shachtman, Dustin Shelbourne, Wesley Wayne, and of course, Jaenike and Mosquera in the form of Shiki Dreams.
Shiki Dreams opens February 25 (for those who visited Natura Obscura) or opens March 3 (for those who didn't) and runs through May 25, at 2219 East 21st Avenue. For tickets and more information, visit prismajic.com.
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