An Instagrammable Immersive Experience: Thoughts on Refinery29’s “29Rooms”

By now, I am sure you’ve experienced a taste of Refinery29’s 29Rooms via someone’s Instagram. An immersive experience that evokes the aesthetic of the editorial platform, 29Rooms features 29 different experiences curated by a multitude of artists and brands. This sort of experiential art show is becoming more and more common – a fact I’m also sure you’re aware of, thanks to the Museum of Ice Cream, Happy Place, the 14th Factory, and even downtown Los Angeles’ The Broad (sorry guys, but you do realize that the most common selfies are taken there, right?)

29Rooms was equal parts incredible and eerily reminiscent of an episode of Black MirrorThis dichotomy is experiential marketing, though. When done authentically, it is an incredible experience that allows spectators to feel connected to brands due to their support of burgeoning art and elevated ideas. When done inauthentically, it feels a bit like you’ve been duped when you’re expected to take a photo to share to your social media that is essentially just an advertisement for Toyota (no, but seriously, a Toyota Camry was a photo opt at 29Rooms).

This all being said, I will focus on the fantastic. I cannot stop thinking of the Dreamers Den. A room created in collaboration with Juno Calypso and Darby Walker, it was a small room that felt like a speakeasy set in outer space. Darby Walker, a rising star with a honey-spun silk voice, asked spectators if they had a dream. Upon hearing the dream, she would then go into an improvisational song. I struggle to find words to describe the immense beauty and emotion that washed over me when hearing Walker’s voice somehow describe exactly how I felt in this dream I had when I was fourteen years old.

Hyphen-Labs created what was easily my favorite activation. A virtual reality experience called NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism took individuals on a journey where time and space were limitless, where empowerment was expansive due to a lack of constraints and limitations that are typically placed in current reality. It was beautiful. I don’t even want to go too far into it, so as to not spoil it for readers who plan on attending 29Rooms this weekend. For those who are not in LA and are unable to attend, check out the Hyphen-Labs site to get a sneak peek.

Per usual, Planned Parenthood created an installation equal parts radical and intriguing, a large light installation in the center of the room depicting the female reproductive system and their pro-choice slogans. Marc Jacobs mastered the art of branded creative expression, creating a Daisy by Marc Jacobs inspired garden that offered a multitude of selfie options that I couldn’t help but give in to. Cleo Wade created a guided meditation that was designed to be listened to in a cushy tent that resembled a womb.

Grab your tickets to check out 29Rooms here!

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