Esther Boston and I were excited to be invited to the exclusive media preview of 29Rooms in Chicago last Wednesday! Needless to say, as far as interactive exhibits go, 29Rooms lived up to the hype! The installations or “rooms” were all to be found inside a large warehouse in the West Loop area, literally around the corner from our friends at 3st Design and Rider for Life. The entrance was set-up to accommodate massive amounts of people, with barricades taking up the sidewalk to the end of the street with signs announcing, “Line up here for 29Rooms.” Thankfully, the media preview was a relatively quiet affair and allowed us to have access to each room, and plenty of space to take some fun pics. As much as I hate being in front of the camera, Esther was able to cajole me into posing in a few of the spaces.
Artistic value and plain ol’ good time aside, many of the rooms had political and social justice messages to deliver to their viewers – everything from race and gender equality to conformity and individuality to surveillance and freedom.
The installations are designed to stimulate conversation and questions about modern society and its conventions. From a temporary tattoo parlor to a giant typewriter, to a bathroom tagged in trans-positive graffiti where the stalls tell stories from transgender people to a room is filled with punching bags and boxing gloves painted with feminist slogans, the exhibit was a cornucopia of color and sensory experiences. You could paint on paper lanterns, participate in a silent disco, or hang out in a room called “The Womb” that’s all cushy inside where visitors hear a woman’s heartbeat and calm, affirming voice. There was even a cabaret style setup where you could get up on a small stage, and perform. So much fun!