We’re now in the era of peak pop-up. Art events and exhibitions that seem staged merely to provide sexy Instagram backdrops are being met with increasing criticism as museum-goers crave substance and – dare it be said – soul. Into this burgeoning arena of skepticism comes The Art of Bloom, an immersive installation at the Edison Theatre in Long Beach, California, that wants to be more than just envy fodder on social media.
On until September 19, The Art of Bloom is produced by Intertrend and Daikoku Design Institute; the former is a multicultural creative agency that works with brands and the latter is a design studio based in Tokyo and Los Angeles. The exhibition’s main feature is a canopy of white flowers suspended from the ceiling of an otherwise empty room. Rigged above the canopy is a system of lighting and sensors activated by human temperature to release scents, wash the floor in colour and rain down soft white paper petals.
Flowers were chosen as the main motif because of their many symbolic meanings – their softness, beauty and aromas light up all of our senses and trigger our memories. The canopy alone, with its immersive and interactive technology, would be enough to conjure all of these meanings. But the exhibition goes one step further with augmented reality: In another room, seven kiosks, when viewed through smart screens, display flurries of virtual petals – and a few virtual bodies in silhouette – reacting to elements like wind, light and shadow. If you can’t make it to Long Beach, you can see videos tagged #TheArtofBloom on, you guessed it, Instagram.
While it’s difficult to take the Instagram out of the experience, The Art of Bloom offers a suite of programming (some of it steeply priced) that extends the experience. There are scent workshops with Yosh Han, a clairvoyant who is also helming “aura readings” on the energy wheels of a participant’s “spiritual body.” One caveat: “Sometimes spirit guides or ancestors may appear in the readings.” If that’s not your cuppa, there are scented dinners and cocktail events.
A captivating and immersive installation in Long Beach, California, brings people and flowers (and a couple of nascent technologies) together again.