Massive Domes Filled With Trippy 3D Visuals Take Over 35,000-Square-Feet In DTLA
A massive art park made up of five giant domes has recently moved into the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles, transforming a 35,000-square-foot parking lot into... something else.
Billing itself as "the world's first fully immersive entertainment art park," Wisdome L.A. is part virtual reality, part art show and part planetarium.
Though the venue is set up to host different art exhibitions over time, currently you'll find "Samskara" by digital painter Andrew "Android" Jones taking over the whole park.
Wisdome L.A. takes you on a journey through complex 3D worlds. Jones' psychedelic work appears in nine different formats, including digital canvases, "Microdose VR," a spherical movie theater, and more. They also bring in food cards and performers, with a style reminiscent of Burning Man.
"Samskara" has an Eastern-influenced vibe. Here's how Wisdome's website describes it: "A soul's impression, the hardly felt emotional track in the subconscious. We travel from life to life between strange worlds and spaces but we are not able to remember this, just keeping the Samskaras."
It's an East-West fusion, with Western technology meeting Eastern spirituality, according to Sean Ahearn, Wisdome's vice president for global business development. Ahearn said it was "the unveiling of truth, or a major revelation that you have in your life — a next evolution stage."
Confused? We're here to help. Here's what that actually looks like in action.
JOURNEY THROUGH THE DOMES
In the first dome, you enter through "the Hall of Reflection" — a hall of mirrors where you're encouraged to look at yourself and think about how you are normally in your day-to-day life, before entering another world.
You come into the Dome of Illusion, a room filled with lenticular digital paintings, showing four to five different paintings on each, depending on your angle. There are also opportunities for selfies, and in the evenings, they often hold interactive events there. The theme of the dome, according to Ahearn, is transformation, along with life itself being an illusion.
The second, larger dome is the Hall of the Masters. It's filled with more digital paintings telling the story of Samskara, along with text describing each Samskara character that's presented.
There are also digital projections on the walls, as well as giant masks with shifting video projections on them creating faces that seem to have a life to them.
When you enter the third dome, you'll find several virtual reality rigs. They're part of what the artist calls "Microdose VR." Once you put one on and pick up the handsets, you'll be able to travel around a virtual world. You even get your own digital paintbrush, allowing you to add your own (temporary) touches to this alternate world. This space also will hold dancers at night, or sponsored events.
Finally, the fourth dome is where the shared "virtual reality" experience comes in. What that means is a room filled with reclined couches, with people coming in to look up and enjoy the trippy digital visuals above. The camera moves through the world, taking everyone on a journey.
Pop culture laser shows became famous as an opportunity for people to enjoy mind-blowing visuals, accompanied by great music. The Wisdome is reminiscent of that experience, offering a new take on chilling out in public. Ahearn likened it to a reimagined Griffith Observatory Planetarium.
WHERE WISDOME COMES FROM
Ahearn, who grew up in L.A., has been working on what's now become Wisdome for about four years. A former festival producer and promoter, Ahearn heard about a group in Thailand that was combining modern art with dome theaters. When he reached out, the group was interested in the art created by his housemate, Android Jones.
They flew out to Thailand, and the group was on board.
"There's definitely this Asian cultural and spiritual aesthetic in everything that we do here, and as people, that's where Andrew and I are personally anyway," Ahearn said.
Wisdome first launched in Moscow, starting in December 2017. But before that, the domes got their start being used at places like Burning Man and Coachella.
"We figured, 'Hey, if you test it there, if it tests well, that's a high bar. People understand art, music, technology there,'" Ahearn said.
The domes were a hit, he said, with lines longer than they could deal with. They went on to test it in venues ranging from a village in India to trade shows for companies like Facebook and Intel.
The Wisdome locations are the first time the domes are being tested as semipermanent installations, facing new obstacles like L.A.'s recent winter storms.
"We're trying to see, how do domes hold up in an urban environment? It's one thing to do it at the [Burning Man] Playa — you pop up for a week, and you tear down. It's another thing to be here day-to-day — hot, cold, heat," Ahearn said.
They have a three-year lease on the L.A. location, according to Ahearn. He argued that the Wisdome represents something brand new.
"We just see this as the future of the museum experience. I think standing there, staring at pretty pictures on the wall — ehhh, we've been doing that for a few hundred years now," Ahearn said.
There's also some tech that's specific to Wisdome, which Ahearn said was proprietary. He also added that their advantage is vertical integration — they do the domes, the projection, the sound, the content, the installation, and the curation themselves.
"Anybody could pop up a dome and try and copy this, but you can't — because of the server, the software, the integration of all the technology," Ahearn said.
It remains to be seen if Wisdome becomes successful enough for others to try copying it.
They've already made attempts to expand their offerings, hosting special events like an exploration of the music of Pink Floyd in Beyond The Wall. Upcoming events range from workouts to a screening of 10 Things I Hate About You.
"I've been negotiating with everyone from the Hendrix estate, to David Bowie, to Moby, to Skrillex, to all kinds of people — to the local yoga studios, the ecstatic dance community," Ahearn said.
Ahearn and his backers' ambitions for Wisdome run high. They hope to eventually open between 50 and 100 Wisdomes and offer rotating shows a la Cirque du Soleil, according to Ahearn. They plan to open sites in Las Vegas and New York next. They even want to open up Wisdomes in Europe and other parts of Asia.
The park is open Thursdays through Sundays, with maintenance and other private events held outside those times. Tickets run $29, with discounted student and child tickets available.
It opens from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Sundays, and stays open until midnight on Friday and Saturday.