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An immersive visual explosion, Refinery29’s experiential 4-day event fiercely yet playfully examines female experience and the socio-political pulls that guide our representations in the world.
Coming back strong for its third edition, this year’s 29Rooms centers around the theme “Turn It Into Art,” and celebrates the “transformative power of creativity in its ability to shift perception and drive change.” The socially-conscious, female-centric installations manage to provoke, tease, and entrance all at once, working together to create a sense of creative continuity.
The individual rooms explore themes of self-love and expression (Love Walk), erotica and female sexuality (Erotica in Bloom), representations of black bodies in our digital culture (Neurospeculative Afrofeminism), healing, outreach, and transformation (Art Heals), self-discovery and inclusivity (Gender Neutral), and many more. As a whole, the rooms collectively celebrate choice, expression, and creativity in what can only be described as a design spectacle.
Piera Gelardi, executive creative director and co-founder of Refinery29, led a sneak peek tour of the exhibition, which she described as a celebration of inclusivity and imagination. “Because of the climate we’re in right now, we feel that spaces of healing and joy are necessary.”
Several of the themes center around this idea of healing: The Womb (in collaboration with Cleo Wade), Shred It (in collaboration with Jake Gyllenhaal), and Art Heals (in collaboration with The Art of Elysium). The Womb recreates the sensation of being inside the mother’s womb in the form of a giant, red bean-enclosed bean bag, which Gelardi describes as a soothing, transportive, listening experience. “It’s about self-love…and it’s definitely an eyes-closed moment,” she says.
Shred It, Gyllenhaal’s testament to the “true strength of the human spirit,” consists of a room full of blank white paper, which participants are encouraged to use to write down their setbacks and fears—and then shred. Gelardi describes it as a “therapeutic experience,” and after the exhibition’s run, the discarded doubts and roadblocks will be sent off to recycling. Art Heals addresses the transformative power of art as a catalyst for change by offering participants paintbrushes and tools to collectively design a “living installation.”
Other rooms offer a sense of childlike reprieve: Glacé Getaway (in collaboration with Juicy Couture) juxtaposes hot and cold with a giant plastic snow globe filled with glittery fake-snow, set within tropical landscape. Light It Up (in collaboration with Symmetry Labs) marries science with art with their interactive light installation, and Love Walk (in collaboration with Aldo) invited participants to strut their stuff through “glowing beating heart runway.”
Neurospectaculative Afrofeminism (in collaboration with Hyphen-Labs) uses VR to construct a neuro-cosmetology lab that examines the under-representation of black women in tech sectors. “We fear what we don’t know,” says Hyphen-Lab’s co-founder Carmen Aguilar y Wedge. “There’s a lack of representation of black bodies in the digital space. If we start exposing images of the ‘other’, we can decrease bias,” she adds.
29Rooms balances the thought-provoking with the playful, while also not shying away from the “Instagrammable” nature of each exhibit. “Art is a catalyst for movement,” Gelardi said during the tour. “My mantra is ‘forever forward.’”
Erotica in Bloom
The Art of Innovation
Light It Up
Ocean of Creativity
29Rooms is located at 106 Wythe Avenue in Brooklyn and runs from September 8 through 11. Update: 29Rooms in Los Angeles will be held at 777 Alameda Street and runs from December 7-10 2017.
Want more stories on the transformative and healing power of art? Check out our video interview with Katie Yamasaki on her mural work with formerly incarcerated women and their families in New York City.