If you dig choir-led sing alongs, anonymous palm readings and traveling blindfolded through an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) tunnel, you’ll find it at 29Rooms, the latest immersive pop up experience from media site Refinery 29.
“Our space is not for observing,” says Piera Luisa Gelardi, co-founder and executive creative director of Refinery 29. “It’s a place for participation. As adults we don’t have permission to play. It’s a way to open people up to different kinds of experiences. There is room for play and self expression.”
The “Expand Your Reality” experience, which takes place December 5 - 9, at the Reef in downtown Los Angeles, will include the “Inner Beauty Ball” with House of Yes, “A Conversation with Your Inner Child” with Carlota Guerrero, “Love Letter to The World” with Cocovan, “Between the Sheets” with Rupi Kaur, “In Touch,” “You Are Magic,” “Shatterbox,” “Shake It Out,” “Teenage Bedroom” with Uzumaki Cepeda, “The Values Stand,” “Know! Your! Rights!” and “A Long Line of Queendom,” among others.
We caught up with Gelardi recently at her office in New York to talk about the collaboration process, her take on millennial selfie culture and what she hopes people will take away from 29Rooms.
How has 29 rooms evolved over the past four years?
The first year was meant to be our 10 year anniversary party so the idea was to bring the different topics that we cover to life. Since then, we have made the experience more interactive and hands on. People want more opportunities to connect with one another. It makes them feel creative. We added a mini dance floor, a blindfolded maze and 29 questions where people sit across from a stranger and have intimate conversations. We played with the experience. We love the idea of expanding your reality and breaking people out of their day-to-day experience.
What is the collaboration process like?
We start the process by thinking about a theme, about our editorial content and what’s resonating with our readers. This year, our audience is looking for moments of introspection, spirituality, sound baths and meditation. We thought that it would be interesting to reach out to Rupi Kaur, the Hoodwitch and Aaron Taylor Kuffner who is doing beautiful sound bath work.
Do you think your readers are interested in moments of calm because of the current climate in America?
The tenor of politics right now and the people who feel under attack are creating this mood where people need more time for self-care. They need to create time for community and for taking a time out. Another reason people are looking for spiritual healing is because it’s a reaction to our digital overload. People need an opportunity to reflect and go inward.
Do you stay away from politics?
We don’t steer away from politics. We dive in to all kinds of identity politics. We are about elevating women and LGBQT and diversity. That’s a huge part of the curatorial process.
Like Jill Soloway’s bathroom last year?
That room is a reflection of our process. We were doing the series Gender Nation and had reached out to our audience about how they identified. We had this big glossary on the site and we thought how can we bring this concept to life? Visitors could read the definitions, be in the room and hear people’s stories. I think that’s a big part of the experience – people wanting to do things and be in the world and experience things in new ways. People are seeking experience as a reaction to our digital focus. People are looking for opportunities to go out and have fun with their friends.
That offers some perspective to the criticism of these types of shows.
A lot of the criticism is rooted in judgment around what is seen as millennial selfie culture. But I think it is so much more complex than people realize. Not everything has to be high art. There is room for play and self expression. In “A Conversation With Your Inner Child,” by Carlota Guerrero, we asked people to look in the mirror and write a letter to that child. I could cry telling you the things people wrote. People judge the use of social media in our space, but when you see the photos from that room on National Coming Out Day -- telling themselves that it gets better and to hang in there – it was so poignant. I think the judgment about social media and selfies is pretty shallow. Its not looking at the full effect at what social media is.
What do you hope people will take away from 29Rooms?
I hope people open up, let down their guard and participate in the different experiences that are there for them. I want to see people participate and leave feeling like they discovered a new passion or something new about themselves.
When: Dec. 5-9
Where: The Reef, 1933 S. Broadway, downtown L.A.
Tickets: $39.99; Party After Dark tickets (21+ up), $69.99