Santa Fe-based immersive art collective Meow Wolf left quite an impression yesterday at their Fractallage party when the organization made their first foray (outside their origin film release this week) into South by Southwest (SXSW). The group spent most of the night Monday evening transforming Empire Control Room and Garage into a Meow Wolf satellite installation complete with visual art, immersive activities (tube dating by Tinder for example) both inside and outside the venue while a roster of exceptional DJs entertained the crowd and set the mood for a surreal (and completely satisfying) experience.
We entered the venue through the Seventh Street side gate to find a bevy of tapestries and colorful banners artfully arranged over the exposed to the air space outside the Garage where Gold Room was performing. The chill-wave sounds being produced perfectly set the mood as fans slowly bopped along to the infectious beats while warm sunlight streamed into the garage and onto the languid audience milling about Empire’s backyard.
The backyard was an entirely different story albeit, fit nicely alongside the performance space adjacent to the decorated patio that featured Tinder Tube Dating (yeah, we don’t know either) using “Experience Tubes.” The exercise pokes fun at how we connect on social media versus real life. Light blue carpeting had been laid over the ground with colorful pillows and foam-stuffed couches to create a kind of chill-out area from space is the only way we can describe it. EVERYONE was smoking pot out there.
Inside, an indoor exhibit had been set up. A man in a captain’s uniform stood near three oversized buttons inside the foyer to the Control Room. He explained (while in character) that the buttons controlled the lighted serpent affixed to the ceiling. Folks were invited to press the buttons to change the lighting sequence and music being piped into the room. Actors in costume milled about portraying sentient beings from another planet trying to suss out people and their actions while visiting the mysterious Earthlings. Costumes included LED lights that responded to the music being played. A giant, fantastic lighted “barnacle” held up the far wall of the Control room and held flowers in which touching the metal wire stamens activated the glowing lights in the display. High tables and seats along the wall allowed visitors to sit and absorb the peaceful environment Meow Wolf created.
We sat outside earlier chatting with staff who talked about working with the organization and their aggressive growth plans (which includes Austin.) Danny, a gentleman who works with sound and audio for Meow Wolf stated he’d been working for the New Mexico trendsetters since 2014 and felt blessed to be a part of something so cool. He was exceedingly kind as was each staffer who arrived in Austin with the collective as if a directive had been handed down that said Meow Wolf employees can only project happiness upon the world. Perhaps that is the credo of Meow Wolf? To project happiness. We know the perma-grin plastered on our faces while we were at Meow Wolf’s Fratallage installation was about as real as you get. Meow Wolf is pure joy.