Factory Obscura has cemented itself as one of the hotspots of Oklahoma City, a reputation which snowballed since its founding in 2017. Its wildly imaginative displays and collaborative creative approach has attracted a substantial fan base over the years.
One of Factory Obscura’s key events is Mix-Tape, an interactive and cooperative installation described as an “adult playground.” Combining a psychedelic imagination with incredible attention to detail, Factory Obscura’s latest Mix-Tape is exactly the kind of place 2021 needs – a place devoted entirely to having fun.
It’s part of a Valentine’s Day emphasis on N.W. 9th Street between Broadway and the railroad tracks to the east.
Before entering the installation, visitors are offered the option to buy light refracting lenses, a must-buy for anyone interested in the full experience.
Each room, linked together by a maze of portals, is dominated by light installations that are all the more fascinating with the lenses. The lighting design forms a central component of the installation, altering the mood of the individual rooms and compelling different reactions from their visitors. The experience is enjoyable without the light-refracting lenses, but with them, Mix-Tape becomes a truly transformative adventure.
Kelsey Karper, co-founder and director of logistical creativity at Factory Obscura, grounds the experience in music, describing its subject as “that universal experience of having an emotional response to music.” Each room is meant to evoke a particular reaction the artists find in music, creating a cohesive Mix-Tape of music they would compile – but the medium of Mix-Tape is more than auditory.
The artists behind the installation seek “to create a fully immersive experience” and “engage all the senses as much as possible.” In embracing such an expansive scope for their mission, the Mix-Tape artists stretch the boundaries of expression.
The imagination of the creators behind Mix-Tape recalls the aesthetic of series like She-Ra and the Princess of Power; that is, it is easy for visitors to imagine themselves dropped in a similar world. The walls are saturated in color and texture, making it feel like a cotton candy machine exploded in a forest filled with bubble gum trees and sugar-soaked streams.
No sense is left untouched by the artists’ intent: music follows the visitors through out. Fantastic imagery stimulates the eyes. There are soft and squishy things to touch and feel. A light perfume surrounds the entrance (probably from the hand-sanitizer), and even visitors’ sense of taste is fulfilled with a tub of ice cream waiting at the end.
Instead of overwhelming the visitor, each of the choices made is essential in transporting them to an alternative reality, following a theme of detailed and holistic set design.
Visitors who enjoy escape rooms will find Mix-Tape equally enjoyable, with the same principles of audience interaction underlying Factory Obscura’s installation. Different mini-adventures lie around to be discovered, and mini-terrariums dot the walls with stories trapped in each one like a bubble.
These aspects of the installation reflect one of the prime challenges facing the Mix-Tape artists, balancing the demands of interactive art with a “handmade and personal quality” that leads the artistic ethos at Factory Obscura.
Another key element of this ethos is a fully collaborative approach to art-making – no single part of the installation is traceable to a single individual. The end result is an experience whose credit is shared by an innumerable band of thinkers, including the visitors themselves. For Factory Obscura, the work of Mix-Tape is “not complete without the participants.”
Factory Obscura has tied itself with its neighbors on 9th Street to market itself as a destination for Valentine’s Day festivities, and in fact, Mix-Tape is probably more fun with someone else – the experience is filled with memories that are more enjoyable when shared, from the karaoke to the games distributed throughout Mix-Tape.
For anyone looking for a light break from the somber reality of the outside, Mix-Tape is fun and refreshing adventure.
Some caution may be warranted for visitors who are particularly COVID-19 wary. Mix-Tape is a fully interactive exhibition – some physical contact with spaces and surfaces that other people have touched is inevitable.
However, Factory Obscura has gone to enormous lengths to ensure the safety of Mix-Tape patrons. Along with a great deal of the common precautionary defenses (plenty of hand sanitizer, constant disinfection, especially of surfaces that require touching, and mask requirements), Mix-Tape has installed special air filters to catch viral particles as well as special UV lights with anti-viral properties (as with everything about Mix-Tape, lighting is central).
No immediate causes for concern present themselves, and if all visitors conduct themselves with the respect and consideration called for in these times, Factory Obscura’s Mix-Tape should proceed without a hitch and will be on everyone’s to-visit list before long.
UPDATED 1-31-21: Statements from Kelsey Karper were added to the original form of this article.
Last Updated January 31, 2021, 1:59 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor