Photo by Deana Elhit
By Deana Elhit, Editor-in-Chief
Mirrored walls surround you. A column surprises you with an illusion once you peek inside. Reflective stainless steel balls, representing polka-dots, spread from floor to ceiling. Each detail represents infinity.
“Polka-dots are a way to infinity,” says Yayoi Kusama, an iconic Japanese artist whose work is featured at Chicago’s WNDR museum. “Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos.”
The WNDR museum disrupts the traditional showcase of an art museum, giving Chicago the first of its kind to bring a “high sensory” and “linear” experience, according to its website. “WNDR,” pronounced “wonder,” was given its name out of the wonders found within the museum.
WNDR showcases different and creative artwork, including illusion rooms and designs, projection mapping you can insert yourself in, machines painting murals, and more. Each artwork is engaging to the eye, making you curious what will appear next.
Kusama’s Let’s Survive Forever rooms at WNDR are one of only three such exhibits in the world. Kusama, “the princess of polka-dots,” is considered one of the most successful living female artists.
“A lot of Kusama’s work is about identity and the concept of infinity,” Armanni Varela, an ambassador for WNDR, said during a recent college press event. “A really cool way to look at it is when you look into the [column] box. It looks like a prism, but when you look inside it’s a whole different world. You kind of see a reflection of yourself.”
Photos by Deana Elhit
Yayoi Kusama’s Let’s Survive Forever takes visitors into infinity (left). Peering into a column reveals the concept in a different way.
The Kusama exhibit is tightly controlled due to its rare experience. Only one person may enter at a time, only bringing a phone or camera. Shoe covers are provided and no re-entry is allowed. Kusama suggests people visit the room for only one minute.
First starting as a pop-up museum in 2018, and getting great response from the community, WNDR decided to become permanent. The museum’s founder, Brad KeyWell, saw a need for Chicago to have such a museum.
“Our founder saw these pop-ups happening and there wasn’t anything like it in Chicago. We thought Chicago deserves something like that,” said Hannah Shanker, curatorial coordinator and social media manager at WNDR.
Modern art is constantly evolving. The futuristic unfolding of art and technology becomes WNDR’s focus, as its emphasis of showcasing technology itself is art. Thus, visitors become part of the experience and contribute themselves to the artwork, Shanker says.
For example, in one room, LED motion sensor panels capture the Light Floor’s ability to follow the movement of feet. Another exhibit, I Heard There Was a Secret Chord, uses artificial intelligence to track how many people are listening to the song “Hallelujah” at that moment through online data. Speakers release the song as a virtual choir in the octagonal room.
Humming along with the tune will create vibrations onto the floor from microphones, creating a metaphysical connection through a sensory experience.
Shanker discusses how, though art is inaccessible to some, WNDR wants to break that barrier and help people realize art is for everyone.
“Every single person is an artist themselves,” she said. “The work here is not completed without your interaction, so you are the artist of WNDR, and everyone here is.
“It shows you can have fun, get curious and try something new. The theme would be showcasing art that isn’t normally showcased. I’m very proud of that personally.”
If you’re looking for a fun experience and a chance to upgrade your photographs, WNDR is a great place to be. The museum is located in the West Loop at 1130 W. Monroe St. Chicago, IL. 60607. General admission price ranges from $30 to $36 depending on the day and time the ticket is reserved. Order your tickets on the WNDR website.
“I like it! A lot of cool pictures and exhibits,” said Amya Harper, a visitor. “Worth your money and time.”
Photos by Deana Elhit