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Art

‘Wonderspaces’ interactive-art experience pops up again in San Diego

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Artist Rejane Cantoni rides a wave.
( Maurice Hewitt )

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT REVIEW:

Wonderspaces — it’s a set of large-scale art installations meant to awaken a sense of wonder and give visitors of all ages a chance to immerse themselves in unusual, multi-sensory experiences.

This is its third pop-up incarnation in San Diego, and once again — through Sept. 1, 2019 — it’s at the B Street Pier in downtown San Diego.

The theme for 2019 is “In Common,” with 13 exhibits that encourage connectedness, offering creative alternatives to our daily doses of divisiveness and discord.

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This year, it seemed there was more sound and less stillness. Personally, I preferred the more peaceful pieces. One of my favorites was “Floor,” a moving, 65-foot-long strip of reflective metal that gives a dry-land experience of riding a wave — standing up or lying down. (Definitely try it lying down: a cool back massage.)

It’s backed by a light screen that responds to each rolling wave, and this is its American debut.

“Art is a communication system, and this project doesn’t exist without people. It’s about feeling your own body, and waiting for another person to initiate the wave,” explained the artist, Rejane Cantoni, who came from Brazil for the previews and June 7 opening.

Her longtime partner in art, Leonardo Crescenti, died only nine months ago. “We were one person, and this is a wave of love,” Cantoni confided. “Any time this piece is shown, he’s alive again.”

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The touchable clouds of ‘Experiment 2.C’ by NASA designers Dan Goods and David Delgado
( Maurice Hewitt )

“Experiment 2.C” is a lovely display of sunset-colored clouds, like something you’d see from an airplane window, but you can actually dip your hand into these clouds and swirl them around.

Created with pond misters and illuminated with a projector, they’re the work of Dan Goods and David Delgado, two artful designers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. (See more about their wonder-stoking experiments online at The Museum of Awe.)

“Les Cent Visages” by the French duo Anais Met de Anext and Gregory Laserre (aka Scenocosme) is another lovely piece, featuring video projections of 100 super-sized faces on a circular screen made of soft, stretchy fabric. Stroking one face not only gives you a sense of connection to the person pictured but causes that face to start morphing into another, suggesting ever-widening connections. And it feels nice, too.

Several of the installations take you into darkness. “Drift,” by local sound artist Margaret Noble, offers eight different mini-rooms that visitors enter alone, after donning blacked-out goggles and earphones. Inside, making your way through a series of suspended ropes, feeling the textured walls, maybe dancing to the surround sound, you’ll find your sightless 3.5-minute journey is over much too soon.

At the media preview, Wonderspaces co-founders Jason Shin and Patrick Charles were busy with last-minute details but stopped to pose for photos. They’re still searching for a permanent site in San Diego, but are happy partnering with the Port of San Diego at the pier until they find what they’re looking for.

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At the June 6th preview of Wonderspaces 2019, co-founders Patrick Charles and Jason Shin pose with Jordan Hill, general manager of their 100-person San Diego team, between them.
( Maurice Hewitt )

“We want to be part of the community, to fill a permanent role in people’s lives,” said Shin. “We want people to say: What do you want to do this weekend? and come here with family and friends.”

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Meanwhile, they’ve acquired a permanent site in Scottsdale, now showing a combo of San Diego’s first two exhibitions, and they’ll be opening in Austin this October and Philadelphia in January 2020. So much easier to catch it here, this summer, and enjoy a bayside walk—southbound, avoiding construction — after the art.

IF YOU GO: Wonderspaces is on view through Sept. 1, 2019 at B Street Pier, 1140 North Harbor Drive, downtown San Diego, weekdays: 3:30-10 p.m.; weekends: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Hours may change due to construction on pier. Tickets are for entry at a specific date and time, best to pre-order online $15-$27 at sandiego.wonderspaces.com

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One of the ‘Cent Visages’ faces morphs in response to a caress.
( Maurice Hewitt )


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