At New York’s Cadillac House, Visionaire, Rafael de Cárdenas and Sahra Motalebi use the language, objects and materials of interior design to create Amaze, a delightfully disorienting installation.
Thanks to Google Maps, it has becoming increasingly difficult to get lost. That’s not a bad thing – being lost can be fun. It can lead to discovery. It can be thrilling. And those are things that are captured in Amaze, a funhouse-like space created by Visionaire, Architecture At Large’s Rafael de Càrdenas and experimental musician Sahra Motalebi.
Open until June 10 at New York’s Cadillac House, an art/event space sponsored by the iconic car brand, Amaze is built to equally immerse and surprise. “The plan of a maze can be a dazzling abstraction, hinting at an intimate relationship to forms distinct from architecture,” say its creators. “The immersive pleasures of mazes, their magnetic and subtly disorienting effects, can be discovered throughout a variety of disciplines and across a variety of media.”
Càrdenas’s installation is surprisingly tactile – it’s made up of four linked rooms, often using the same design language, products and materials. The first thing visitors encounter is a glowing orb surrounded by a metallic fringe. You’re invited to peek behind the curtain, of course, where its makers promise to “scramble the coordinates of space and time.”
Motalebi’s ambient score beckons visitors into other rooms, though it lends the exhibition the air of a horror movie – it features looped laughter atop atonal drone music, all made solely from her vocals. It’s unsettling stuff, to be certain, and it contrasts to the bright burst of colour that follows: visitors next enter a mirrored hallway with sconce lighting, geometric carpeting and lemon-yellow walls. It’s part funhouse, part actual house, part Alejandro Jodorowsky – and meant to simultaneously embrace and question our obsession with selfies.
It’s hard to figure out where to go next – the installation is full of hidden doorways, two-way mirrors and delightfully everyday artifacts. At the end of the hallway above, for example, is cyan pedestal with daffodils and a bottle of Advil. Amaze aims to oscillate between the “otherworldly and mundane,” and here, that’s readily evident.
Once – or if – one emerges from the sensory overload of the mirrored hallway, a room wallpapered with bold black and white patterns comes next. Inspired by op art and dazzle camouflage, a geometric ship camouflage used in World War I to disorient attackers, these rooms distort perception; it’s almost as if one expects to see an optical illusion here.
Amaze’s final room combines several different compact spaces painted in an array of colours, separated by a mixture of tinted panes and mirrors. While de Cárdenas beautifully distorts perspective – in images, it’s difficult to separate what is in the foreground – Motalebi’s score takes yet another a sinister turn, both urging listeners to leave while reminding them that there are others left behind in the maze.
The exhibit is open until June 10 at 330 Hudson St. Listen to a sample of Amaze’s eerie score below.