Disclaimer: Any opinions I write about here are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Meow Wolf, the company for which I work.
There is a room in the Omega Mart attraction, where I work, that is one of my favorites. It is called the Infinitizer. It was created in collaboration with Meow Wolf by Alex and Allyson Grey. Although the two are internationally known and renowned, I had not heard of either of them until I started working at Meow Wolf.
They have quite a following, though. Guests often come to the attraction specifically to view their art, which is prominently displayed both in our Projected Desert portion of the attraction and the Infinitizer. Both pieces draw heavily from works featured in Alex Grey's book, Net of Being.
Net of Being by Alex Grey, 2012
The Greys' work contain themes of mysticism and spirituality and have a visionary, psychedelic influence. To me, it feels New Age-y. Lots of focus on chakras, the third eye, spiritual enlightenment, consciousness, etc. Based on their own words, I know the use of psychedelic mushrooms have inspired many of their creations.
The Infinitizer itself is a relatively small, square room containing four giant faces (one in each corner of the room). All four walls are mirrors, and so it gives the illusion that the room is vast and infinite, thus its name. The mirrors also create the illusion that each face has multiple faces.
The Infinitizer, Meow Wolf, Las Vegas
Photos by Laurent Velasquez
I'm not sure what the heads are made of. They almost feel like stone, although they are probably fiberglass or something similar. In any case, the four faces are all white, and there are projectors projecting animated images of the Greys' art onto the faces, so there is constant movement and a variety of colors and themes cycling through. The projections are on a constant 20-minute loop all while accompanied by original music created by El Buho and Heather Nova.
It's a pretty cool room. It's also one we are required to be in if any guests are in it, so I've gotten pretty familiar with it.
It's always fascinating to watch how different guests interact with the room. When guests enter the room from the outside of it, it would be hard to guess that this spectacular art piece would be waiting on the other side. The entrance to the Infinitizer is pretty unassuming.
In fact, I always try to keep in mind the first time I saw the Infinitizer when I was taking a tour of the attraction at my employee orientation. We had been released on our own to explore the space as a guest might. I pushed open a door that in my wildest dreams wouldn't have revealed what it did.
It's funny, I had seen photos of the Infinitizer before I was hired to work at Meow Wolf. I had imagined it to be a more vast and larger room. And I did, in fact, think it was an immense room when I came upon it. I thought, "Oh, this is that cool room from all the pictures." But I soon realized, as every guest eventually does, that the "vastness" of the room is just a very cool trick with mirrors.
On that visit, I didn't get much time with the Infinitizer. We were on a time crunch that day. Now that I have worked at Meow Wolf going on ten months now, I have had plenty of time to "get to know" the Infinitizer.
Some employees (as well as some guests) don't like the Infinitizer. The lights. The sounds. The constant movement of the projections. The illusion created by the mirrors. I suppose it can be overwhelming. Perhaps it even was to me at one time. I honestly can't remember. I'm so used to it now.
I've had guests come in and immediately retreat because it's too much for them. I've had guests ask me if being in there gives me a headache or makes me nauseous, perhaps because that is how it makes them feel.
It doesn't. I actually like it. I know some of my coworkers prefer not to be stationed there, but I actually find it calming, particularly when I am in there alone, which isn't too often, but there are gaps of time when guests are elsewhere.
When I very first started working at Omega Mart, when we were stationed in the Infinitizer, we would just stay in there whether guests were in there or not. Now we're asked to step into the adjacent hallway if guests aren't in the Infinitizer so we can assist guests who are passing by.
Especially on less busy days or at the end of my shift, there are times when I can be alone in the Infinitizer, and I quite like it. It has a peaceful, meditative quality to it.
I guess because it feels like a meditative, almost sacred, space to me, I am sometimes mildly bothered by those guests who enter and remain in the Infinitizer with a more boisterous, frenetic, even dismissive, energy. I can't blame them. It's not as though they are in a church, temple, or other holy-like site. They are, after all, in an entertainment venue hopefully having a good time. And some of them are seeing this kind of art for the first time and express their amazement and awe in different ways than I might.
And on top of that, the art in our attraction is meant to be interactive, and whose to say that my more meditative, quiet inclination is the supposed "right" way to interact with this particular piece (if there even is an intended way to interact with the piece)? For all I know, the Greys might just as well embrace a boisterous, loud attitude when it comes to their art. I have little idea of how Alex and Allyson Grey or the powers that be at Meow Wolf intended for guests to interact with the Infinitizer.
But for me personally, it's not the kind of energy I enjoy in that space. Guests will sometimes come in yelling, for example, or the inevitable taking photos of themselves picking one of the faces' noses or doing some other—in my mind—crass or disrespectful motion to the art. One guy graffitied his name on one of the faces—thanks, JEFF! Posterity knew your name but for a brief moment.
Sometimes people will enter; look around for the briefest of moments; sort of shrug with a kind of "oh-it's-just-a-small-room-with-mirrors" sort of air, barely acknowledging the art at all; and leave as quickly as they entered. That almost feels more dismissive and disrespectful to me than the nose pickers.
But art is so subjective. The space is so subjective. Why is my way of "worshipping" and interacting with the art any more "correct" than theirs?
Most guests seem pretty awestruck by the piece. There are often gasps or exclamations ranging from "Oh, wow!" and "Check this out!" to "Oh, my God!" to "Holy shit!" It's amusing to me to witness guests' amazed reactions. Typically, the guests will acclimate themselves to their new surroundings, examining the room to see if there is any more to it or if there are any clues to be found to assist them in an interactive game that is part of the attraction. Then they will take the requisite selfies or group shots. Some linger longer than others, viewing and participating with the art. Others discover that if you stand in the center of the room, the sounds of quiet, almost inaudible voices are heard. Being a little hearing-challenged myself, I am not able to make out the majority of what is being said, but them seem to be subliminal, soul-affirming affirmations such as "Ask for forgiveness" and "Surrender to love."
I think the most interesting interactions I witness in the Infinitizer are the guests who really seem to be communing with the art. One of my favorite—and kind of bizarre—interactions was this woman who came in toward the end of the night with what seemed to be her entourage. They came dressed in various costumes. There were two younger men and a younger woman with her, and the vibe around them almost felt cult-ish, with her being the leader.
When she entered the room, she immediately gasped and dropped her purse in excitement and started gyrating and swaying to the music while chanting and harmonizing with it. As she did this, her acolytes looked at her in wonder. Eventually, she sat down and continued chanting while the younger woman danced about while one of the young men continued to take her photo. My memory is that the other young man stood by and wasn't as engaged in what was happening as the other three.
I also remember the young woman getting the older woman some water, almost as if she were her servant. It was all a bit odd. The group was in the Infinitizer easily for 20 minutes, and since it was a slow night and we were close to closing, I was mostly alone with them feeling a bit awkward.
I also remember after they were done with their "ritual," the young man who had been taking the photos came up to me and asked, "How did you like that?" I smiled a weak smile under my mask and muttered, "Oh, it was something." I think he was expecting a more exuberant response from me, but their behavior had been a little strange to me.
Just a couple of weeks ago, there were four young woman who sat on the floor in a circle, their legs crossed Indian style, their hands clasped with each other, and they swayed back and forth to the music, almost as if they were performing some sort of incantation. I'm pretty sure they were high, which is not an uncommon occurrence among certain guests at our attraction.
When I first started working at Omega Mart, guests were allowed to sit on the floor in the Infinitizer, and many did now and then. Now we discourage guests from sitting as there is not much space and sitting guests can be a tripping hazard. But this incident was also at the end of the night when most guests were already gone, so I just let them do their thing.
I've seen other occurrences of dancing and singing as well as contemplating the piece. Two nights ago, a couple watched the whole 20-minute projection loop and were talking about it in a rather educated and curious manner.
While I have my own ideas and theories as to some of the themes Alex and Allyson Grey may have intended to get across, I do not know for sure what their intentions were. I do get the impression the piece has some Buddhist inspiration. Lots of themes dealing with chakras, the third eye, mortality, spirituality, enlightenment, and such.
It's interesting to me how much eyes, in general, play into Alex Grey's work. Depending on what the various projections are doing, the eyes on the four large faces seem to be lifelike at times. The pattern on the floor is such that the reflection of the mirror seems to create four eyes, one in the middle of each side of the room. The Greys also have another piece in our Projected Desert, elsewhere in the attraction, where a sea of open and closed eyes cover the space at one point. It all kind of gives me this "all-seeing" but also seeing inward vibe.
This room reminds me of two places: the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles
and the Sealing Room in various Mormon temples.
Sealing Room, Salt Lake Temple
In the Mormon faith, temples are concerned sacred, and one must be a member of the LDS Church in good standing to be able to enter the temple.
The only exception to this is just before a new or newly remodeled temple is dedicated, at which time the church holds open houses (usually about a month long), allowing members and non-members alike to tour the building.
I remember my first open house of a temple. It was of the Jordan River Temple in South Jordan, Utah in 1981. As a young ten year-old boy, I was struck by its beauty, cleanliness, and stillness. But what I remember most was the Sealing Room (where marriages and other sacred sealing ceremonies are performed) with its mirrors on either side of the room reflecting each other and symbolizing eternity. I was fascinated with that illusion and often feel the same way when I am staring into seeming infinity when I am alone in the Infinitizer.
Maybe that's why this piece of art does sort of feel sacred and holy to me even though its located in the midst of an entertainment venue.
One thing I find fascinating is that when one is standing in the room staring at this seemingly endless look into the infinite, one, of course, can't see the infinite reflections of oneself. You can only see the reflection right in front of you and maybe the top of your head or shoulder or an arm or leg. But it is impossible to see the multiple reflections of your own face because your immediate reflection is preventing you from seeing beyond it.
Yet if another person is standing in the room, you can observe the multiple, infinite reflections of them if you are standing at an angle that allows you to do so. I don't know why I find that so fascinating and somewhat paradoxical, but I do. Maybe there's some lesson in that—it's easier for me to see the multiple facets in someone else than in myself, maybe?
I also find it fascinating that one can only see about twelve or so reflections before it just seems to blur into nothingness. And yet, the idea is overwhelming and mind-boggling that if one were able to walk through those reflections, one would keep walking forever and never reach an end.
I think in this life we are so constrained and chained down by the idea of time, which seems to me a man-made construct that it is hard for us to comprehend the idea of eternity, that there is no beginning or end, that somehow when we are outside the limited view of mortality that past, present, and future are all one. It's hard for a finite mind to wrap its head around an infinite universe, but I believe in a universe that has no beginning or end and where one can see all at one time.
Perhaps one day a door will be opened that will allow my limited mind to truly comprehend the mysteries of the infinite.