An Otherworldly Experience
Writer Joseph J. Airdo
Photography Courtesy of Wonderspaces
Mesplé’s background is a bit different than that of most artists.
“I was blacksmithing by the time I was 11 years old,” Mesplé says. “I had my first welder by the time I was 13. At age 14, I began working in a foundry, making huge sculptures for artists. I have built theme park rides. I build machines for people. I also cast and sculpt.”
Mesplé is the personification of a jack of all trades—and that is what he believes makes him an exceptional artist.
“I have always felt like the more I know about different fields, the more I can fuse them all into something that is really unique and individual,” Mesplé says. “I like to blend art with technology but I do it differently than a lot of people do.”
Whereas most artists of Mesplé’s ilk work with LEDs or projections, Mesplé prefers to play with physical material. He creates using molten metal, working completely from scratch, to bring his ideas to life.
One of his ideas, Killing Time, is currently on display at Wonderspaces as part of its new exhibit Elsewhere—which is the perfect place for artwork of its ingenuity.
Other installations in the exhibit include Akousmaflore, a small garden of living musical plants that respond to gentle contact, and Sewing Machine Orchestra, a sound and light installation composed of 12 synced sewing machines.
Occupying the former Harkins movie theater inside of Scottsdale Fashion Square, Wonderspaces partners with artists from around the world to create unique art shows that change a couple of times each year. The result is a place where people can connect with art and with each other.
Elsewhere is Wonderspaces’ sophomore exhibit at the 16,000-square-foot venue following the debut of Point of View earlier this year, which ended its run in August.
“The response has been fantastic,” says Jason Shin, president and co-founder of Wonderspaces. “More than 60,000 people came to the first show, and several hundred of those signed up for annual memberships just based on that first impression.”
Shin notes that Elsewhere’s installations are designed to prompt us to question our reality, with each one rewriting the laws that govern the physical world and our interactions with it. Departing from what we know to be true, the artists offer glimpses into what else there can be—moments where their realities become ours.
“What Elsewhere has in common with Point of View is that the artwork is both extraordinary and accessible,” Shin adds. “What is different about Elsewhere is that it is organized around the theme of how the rules that govern our world could be bent slightly—reimagined—and what that opens up.”
Shin assures that those visitors who experienced Point of View will feel as though they are entering an entirely different exhibit with Elsewhere.
“Not only did we bring in 12 new installations, we changed the presentation of the 13th piece and we rearranged the actual walls—the structure of the space—to create a new navigation and the sense of a new experience,” he explains.
The installations are the stars of the show, however, as Elsewhere presents 13 room-scale pieces of artwork that range from virtual reality short films like Old Friend, an animated, psychedelic dance party, to interactive sculptural pieces like Levitate, a new media interpretation of gravity in which balls float up and dance through visitor engagement.
Shin could not pick a personal favorite among the exhibit’s installations as each one offers something different to the beholder.
“The piece that I connect with or want to spend time with will change drastically depending on how I am feeling on a given day,” Shin says.
However, he acknowledges that Mesplé’s Killing Time is extraordinarily effective in creating an otherworldly experience—the ultimate goal of Elsewhere.
“His piece demands your presence,” Shin explains. “When you have an experience with his piece, no matter what you have going on in your life, it takes you out of that and into the world that he has created.”
A kinetic hourglass sculpture, Killing Time features an internal sensor that detects when a viewer approaches. A curated sequence is then triggered, releasing a deep black liquid—ferrofluid—producing breath-like motion from and into the mouth of a polished skull.
“I originally read an article about 12 years ago on ferrofluid,” Mesplé says. “I thought that the way it moved and reacted made it a really interesting material.”
The artist adds that in addition to showcasing the physics of the material and creating a sense of wonder and awe, Killing Time transmits a very important message to the viewer.
“A lot of people are wasting time,” Mesplé explains. “I have always been under the thought process that I know exactly what I want to do. Sometimes when I am dealing with other people, I feel like I am wasting time. So the meaning behind it is to quit killing time.”
Elsewhere’s installations also include Confessions, a participatory work that invites visitors to write and submit confessions on a wooden plaque in the privacy of a booth; The Corridor, a disorientating and hypnotic projection of four films simultaneously; and Hoshi, a depiction of infinite space using light, mirrors and sound.
Entry to Elsewhere is staggered every 15 minutes to ensure individual installations do not get too crowded, giving visitors an opportunity to peacefully and personally engage with each piece of artwork. The show is designed to take about 80 minutes to experience, but visitors have the freedom to enjoy the exhibit at their own pace.
“I think what Wonderspaces is doing is really unique and interesting,” Mesplé says. “I have done art shows all over the place, and most typical art settings prevent a lot of the public from enjoying these types of artwork. The whole purpose of art since day one was to transmit a feeling and allow people to enjoy artwork and get something out of it.”
Mesplé believes that Wonderspaces’ approach opens up a platform that allows people who would normally never go to an art show or interact with art to have that experience.
Shin agrees, noting that 44% of visitors to Point of View had never been to an art show before.
“We are super excited by the fact that the visitorship is reaching beyond the typical art crowd,” Shin says. “We want to do right by everyone—no matter what their relationship is with art—to make Wonderspaces an inviting place.”
Of course, that means Shin and the entire Wonderspaces team is committed to learning how to make their exhibits even more accessible with each new installation. One of their latest charges is to bolster Wonderspaces’ educational programs and provide field trips to students.
“It seems like there is a new lesson every day,” Shin says. “If I could point to one now, it is that doing right by the artists, delivering an exceptional experience to the visitors and being a bridge between the two depends on getting 1,000 little details right every single day.”
Other installations that visitors can experience at Wonderspaces during its Elsewhere exhibit include Erupture, an inflatable sculpture that depicts a surreal landscape of microscopic life forms; Soil, a surface composed of modular planes that move in all directions; and On a Human Scale, a project that unites voices and faces of the world through technology.
Through March 2020 | Scottsdale Fashion Square | 7014 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale | $24+ | arizona.wonderspaces.com