Imagine walking inside a Tool album cover like the ones designed by Alex Grey: all hypercolor and shamanism and replications of replications of replications of images stretching infinitely into a distant horizon. This is how it feels to step into Wisdome Los Angeles, a “fully immersive entertainment art park” that has recently set up shop in the downtown Arts District.
Wisdome LA, to do away with buzzwords, is a series of domes and virtual-reality installations strung together to create an all-encompassing experience that has been featured at festivals like Lightning in a Bottle and Burning Man.
The domes, as the name would imply, make up the centerpiece of the park, awe-inspiring monoliths even when they’re not lit up with projection mapping. Inside the smaller domes are art galleries featuring rows and rows of surreal works by the likes of Android Jones.
However, while the immersion of Wisdome LA is its biggest selling point, it’s unfortunately easily broken. It’s not often that the smell of an experience can present its own obstacles, but fire pits outside fill the air with headache-inducing smoke, while inside the domes isn’t much better – either smelling of overpowering incense or the ultra-clean, antiseptic odor of the newly built domes.
The domes also come with the unintended consequence of being able to eavesdrop on fellow parkgoers. As unsettling as it is disruptive, totally random conversations from across the dome pick up and carry clear as day, as if complete strangers were outfitted with microphones.
Be that as it may, there is something to be said for Samskara, the immersive visual experience projected on the ceiling of the main dome. While live music is performed on stage, audience members lie supine on the ground, staring up at borderless, dazzling projection mapping above them.
This mapping is also designed by Jones, at once both beautiful and scarily intense. In some scenes, viewers are brought up close with a giant mechanical monster, or even the Hindu goddess Kali, whom Jones has described as “the personification of time and death,” giving the experience a deeply existential bent.
Some of the installations at Wisdome LA feel like something out of Black Mirror or Minority Report. For example, outside, there’s a VR station touting something called a “Galactic Gallery.” Beautiful works of art come to life in an artificial gallery, whirring and rotating at the click of a button to reveal brand new pieces. It’s neat, in a “shiny new toy” kind of way, but like a new toy, the novelty wears off quickly.
And that’s ultimately how Wisdome LA feels. It’s neat and cool and exciting and immersive, but the smell of L.A.’s concrete jungle can only be covered up so much. The downtown Los Angeles skyline can be beautiful, but here, the presence of the US Bank Tower looming in the distance only disrupts the immersion even more. While it’s understandable that Wisdome LA could potentially be a welcome addition to a festival, it just doesn’t quite justify a bespoke experience.