For a city in the midst of a Megadrought, there is something strangely poetic about going to a museum to visit the rain. In Rain Room, LACMA’s latest interactive environment exhibit from their Art + Technology initiative, that’s essentially what we’re doing. When Random International originated the concept in London in 2012, followed by an insanely popular run at MoMA in NYC, it’s probably not what they had in mind. But just as every great work of art changes in relationship to its environment, this is no exception. What could be just a really cool sensory experience anywhere else, within the context of Los Angeles begins to take on a larger meaning.
Our first piece of advice is to go in knowing as little as possible. So honestly, you should just stop reading right now, buy yourself a ticket through this link and go. Trust us on this one…
Still reading? Okay, so you like to be prepared. In that case, we’ll let you in on a few key tips for getting the most out of your Rain Room experience. First of all, wear flat shoes or you won’t get in. You don’t want to be the one left standing outside in your cute shoes waiting for your friends to come out and tell you how it’s “totally amaaaazing!” and “hard to really explain” before posting epic photos of themselves on Instagram. NOT worth it.
Located on Level 1 of LACMA’s Broad Contemporary Art Museum building, groups of about twenty are brought in together for a 15-minute window. Once inside, the attendants inform you that only 8 people are allowed in the actual installation at any given time. They rely on the honor system for people to move in and out, giving everyone time to experience it. So don’t be a rain hog—go in knowing that you’ll have to share.
Unlike the James Turrell installation, they do allow cameras inside the Rain Room. Our advice is to get your great shot right when you enter and then put your phone away so you can actually get the experience you paid for. The best angle is from the corner as soon as you walk in or along the left-hand side. Shooting towards the one large white spotlight creates the best backlit effect. They tell you not to wear dark colors, but we found that darks actually create the best silhouettes. Your subject standing in the foreground blocking the light will also make for a better photo. Utilize your phone’s slow-mo feature for some epic music-video-worthy clips. Then…PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. Seriously.
Once you actually step into the large square area of water showering down from overhead, they tell you to walk slowly if you don’t want to get wet. Advanced sensor technology picks up your movements, stopping the water above you as you walk, so you have to go at a pace that can be felt. Our attendant told us to “walk like a zombie.” We’d say, “walk like someone experiencing the wonder of rain for the first time”, so you don’t just shuffle around like the living dead. But be advised, you WILL get a little wet no matter what.
Much has already been written about how incredibly cool the Rain Room is. That it can make you feel like a god, satisfying fantasies of controlling the elements as you walk in the pouring rain, holding the power to stop it with your every move. But as we said before, given our unique current tenuous relationship with water, it brings up the other side of the question too: what does it mean to stand inside the rain, but never be able to touch it? To have it always JUST out of reach? Dry only where you are? The Rain Room can make philosophers of us all and it’s fascinating to talk to your friends afterwards about how they interpreted the experience (beyond, of course, being “SO cool!”)
The artists’ website states: “Rain Room is an environment of falling water through which it is possible to walk, trusting that a path can be navigated, without being drenched in the process. As you progress through the space the sound of water and a suggestion of moisture fill the air, before you are confronted by this carefully choreographed downpour that responds to your movements and presence.” We’re partial to this interpretation. That you can walk through a downpour and not get drenched, trusting that everything around you will support your journey. Any which way you think about it, the Rain Room delivers a sense of awe, wonder, play, mystery and excitement—forcing you out of the mundane and into the extraordinary. Now stop reading and go get your ticket already!
Rain Room runs from Nov 1-Mar 6. Tickets are currently sold out through January 2016, so reserve now & mark your calendars, as this event WILL sell out. Tickets are $30 for non-members, which includes general admission. $10 for members. www.lacma.org
© 2015 Sirens and Scoundrels