After a moment, you begin to succumb to the motion. The lights sweep toward you in hypnotic, pulsating waves; the roar of a passing train overwhelms your sensations of hearing and touch. All that’s left to do now is to walk downstairs to Emack & Bolio’s and get something sweet and tasty, something that satisfies the demands of your remaining two senses.
Area15, the “experiential art and entertainment complex” located just south of Palace Station on the west side of Interstate 15, opened its doors somewhat quietly last September. It’s still waiting on its biggest tenant, an interactive exhibition by Santa Fe, New Mexico art collective Meow Wolf, due to open later this year. But you can, and should, visit Area15 before then and check out what’s already there, including Haley’s Comet, an in-house zip line; Dueling Axes, an ax-throwing lounge; the aforementioned ice cream parlor Emack & Bolio’s, scooping up offbeat flavors like Space Cake and S’moreo; nostalgia-rich candy and soda shop Rocket Fizz; Wink World (opening this month), a 1,500-square-foot wonderland of infinity mirrors, black light and 3D art created by Blue Man Group co-founder Chris Wink; and many more reality-bending art pieces, both indoors and out, extending into the large, free parking lot.
All that being said, Area15 really began to hit its stride with the November opening of Museum Fiasco, a flexible art space that currently hosts “Cluster,” the previously described sensory mindwash. Saying I’ve sufficiently “described” it, however, is woefully unfair to the work. Like many of the must-see interactive art shows this city has welcomed—James Turrell’s luminous “Akhob” and Yayoi Kusama’s disorienting “Infinity Mirrored Room: Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity” come readily to mind—“Cluster” is less an “I saw that” than an “I went there.” You can’t know really it until you’ve been in it, standing on the tracks.
“It’s the first exhibition like this in Las Vegas, a fully immersive light and sound installation that really takes you to another level of experience,” says Museum Fiasco manager Brian Paco Alvarez.
Created by Barcelona, Spain-based Playmodes Studio (the “audiovisual research” collective that created the “Beams” installation for the 2018 Life Is Beautiful Festival), there are two different programs constantly cycling through the 5,000-square-foot, mirrored space—one that evokes rushing trains, the other a glitching computer. The programming varies from one show to the next; you’d have to watch for seven straight hours to see a program duplicated exactly. Either presentation is worth the separate admission fee of $17; you’ll probably want to watch all of one and most of another, which you can easily do thanks to Museum Fiasco’s appointment-based viewing times. And it probably goes without saying that they’re holding to strict health guidelines; everyone is masked, and it’s easy to maintain 6 feet of distance inside “Cluster” and the rest of the vast Area15 complex.
By the way, you need to make an appointment to visit Area15, though admission to the complex is free. (Like “Cluster,” many of Area15’s exhibitions charge their own admission; locals discounts are available for tickets purchased on-site.) Masks are required, hand sanitizing stations are provided and social distancing is enforced, which will make Area15 the place to be as the vaccine rollout proceeds. If we’re to live in a, let’s say, augmented reality—lockdowns, nonstop political theater—shouldn’t we do it in a space that’s truly theatrical? Perhaps even one that makes it plain that the Elon Musk-like simulation we might be living in needs a reboot?
“’Cluster’ really transports you to another environment, to another plane,” Alvarez says. “Some people liken it to the Matrix.”
To make a reservation to visit Area15 and “Cluster,” visit area15.com.