What is a museum? It seems to me that the likely answers to this question have remained fairly static for several hundred years now. For the most part they are a depository of art and artifacts from artists now dead and times since past. Museums are largely a reflection of things and people that came before, a look back. WNDR Museum is a break with that tradition where patrons are encouraged to stand in the moment, where the experience is happening, and look forward into the realm of possibility.
Opening March 22nd in Seattle, this manifestation of WNDR is the northwestern reach of a concept that started in Chicago five years earlier. Like its unconventional way of spelling "wonder" it also seeks to change the way its audience experiences said emotion, chiefly through the interactive nature of their exhibits.
The museum's instillations are a division of pieces commissioned from outside artists and those created by WNDR Studios, the in-house artist collective. If there is one exhibit that is a stand-alone reason for you to go today, that would have to be "You Can Do Most Anything" by Andy Arkley. This multi-media sculpture encourages its audience to work with what the artist has provided to create their own songs. The viewer is presented with a panel of 16 buttons, each of which control a separate wooden sculpture decorated with colored lights and an accompanied musical track. By combining different buttons, different compositions and lights shows are born…
It's a little reminiscent of Casio keyboards from the '90s where you would press a key and a pre-recorded song would play, but far more sophisticated and the different tracks all mix and match surprisingly well. The sculpture has a commanding presence, not just with the wall of sound you can create with it, but it is physically large, and while its parts are whimsical and simple, their expansive size have an invitingly encompassing quality. I could have played with this piece for hours, but I reveled in the ten minutes I had to play and hope to do so again. From there I gravitated towards the WNDR Studios works like "Lake Shore Drive (LSD)" and "Light Floor" which have generative light screens that alter with viewer's interactions. These have a funhouse quality and are visually captivating. WNDR also hosts a Yayoi Kusama sculpture titled "Starry Pumpkin" which fits in well with the family it now finds itself in.
There was something that felt not-quite-complete about WNDR Museum, more like it was a work in-progress than something that has been fully realized at this moment in time. Given its experimental nature I imagine it shall continue grasping around in the unknown before it arrives at an ultimate identity, if it decides to arrive anywhere definite at all, but I truly hope it continues on this path and I look forward to returning in a year or so, just to see where they’ve wandered.