Looking inside the magical, interactive performance space known as The Perplexiplex at Convergence Station in Denver, CO.
Are you ready to transcend your physical body and have an out-of-this-world experience? Well, have you been to Meow Wolf Denver’s Convergence Station yet—and specifically—have you been to The Perplexiplex? It’s Meow Wolf’s biggest event venue to date, fitting up to 500 people inside its magical walls. What makes it so special, you ask?
There are only a few venues that are projection mapped in the United States, and this one is stellar. Meow Wolf collaborated with Montreal-based multimedia entertainment studio, Moment Factory, to create four immersive scenes that play for four minutes each. The vision was to create an interactive, surreal forest that people can engage with, play with, and just be in.
Alexandre Lupien, Creative Director at Moment Factory, wanted it to be a social experience: “We didn’t want people to just interact with “a machine”, but wanted them to interact with each other.” It’s also fun for shy and introverted types who don’t want to interact too much and perhaps just want to enjoy the music while staring at some cool visuals.
The Perplexiplex is also super accessible and intuitive. Each scene is visually different, but the same sensory inputs kickstart interactions with the imagery and audio. The silhouettes of people are tracked as they move in the room, and they become an agent or actor amongst every motif.
Without giving too much away, the first scene is an organic fungi environment that celebrates the wildness and beauty of fungi. The second scene is more digital and illustrates an environment that glitches and shifts through pixel sorting. The third scene is about the contrast between dark and light and features neon structures and geometry. The final scene is called Palette Obsession, which is all about painting and applying a medium upon a canvas with your body, and the ways you interact with the imagery.
The art was as much a response to the music as the music was a response to the art. Meow Wolf artist and musician, Cole Bee Wilson, was given the enormous task of creating the score for each interactive scene. Meow Wolf co-founder Matt King, who our community tragically lost last year, loved one of Wilson’s previously recorded albums that had a very orchestral sound, and wanted a dose of that magic in the score.
Wilson says, “I wanted to make really earnest pieces about beauty. Like how nature blows you away with its beauty. It wasn’t about making the perfect composition. It was about reflecting on perfect beauty, like the sacred perfect beauty of nature.”
It had to be written, recorded, and mastered in three months, so Wilson got to work, hardly sleeping the first month, just trying to push ideas and seeing what stuck. Luckily, Wilson didn’t have to do it alone; he has a vast network of very talented musician friends across the U.S. Rita Andrade, of the string quartet, Atlys, came on board and worked on the string arrangement. Sterling Steffan expertly played all the brass and wind instruments. Wilson’s brother, Cody Wilson, whose music moniker is Corduroi, took charge of the sound effects. Wilson recorded drafts and sent them out to these musicians to work on and alter, and then traveled to LA, Austin, and Chicago to record everything. Once recorded, local Santa Fe musician, Ben Clary, mixed and mastered it.
When The Perplexiplex isn’t in exhibition mode running the four scenes, and a band is playing in the space, Meow Wolf Event Production Engineer, Duke Ducheneaux, is live VJing. VJing is creating and manipulating imagery in real time in synchronization to music. Ducheneaux literally plays with the band, deciding what content to put on the walls and timing it to their music. Sometimes bands send their own content over and he mixes it in. Once, a musician sent over artwork that was placed in projection-mapped frames on wallpaper around the venue. Ducheneaux says the artists are often very stoked and blown away. The fact that the venue can upgrade and change makes it feel like a brand new venue every time, making his job new and exciting every day.
4. Other special, projection-mapped experiences
Every quarter, Meow Wolf holds an immersive yoga experience. And it’s not just any old yoga class. With the power of projection mapping, the Meow Wolf team can make fish swim and plants grow around your yoga mats. Other ideas include a dinner party where plates on the table are highlighted, and little creatures walk around while you eat.
Transcendent. Lush. Mysterious. Moving. Playful. Powerful. These are all words that can describe the unique experience of The Perplexiplex. So, what are you waiting for? You’ve got to find the magic yourself. After all, as Wilson describes, everywhere is holy land, and in The Perplexiplex that is especially felt.