I’ve been curious about Houston’s newest museum since I first heard rumors about its opening last year. Besides Seismique’s catchy name and the few pictures I’d seen online, I wondered—was it a museum or an art installation? And was it worth visiting?
I finally had a chance to check out the unique experience last week. So what is it? A mixed-media museum featuring larger-than-life art installations that require no previous knowledge of art history to enjoy. You won’t find any Van Goghs or Picassos on these walls, but there's a new visual surprise around every corner. One has to wonder how all these themed art rooms fit inside a former Bed, Bath & Beyond retail store. Who comes up with this stuff anyway?
Actually, Seismique is the brainchild of Steve Kopelman and Josh Corley, two world travelers and haunted house and escape room creators who sensed a need for art that defies frames, glass cases, and other barriers that keep the viewer at a distance. The two came up with a concept for an interactive space that allows the guest a hands-on experience. They took over the 40,000-square-foot former storefront and now jokingly quip “the only thing we kept from Bed, Bath & Beyond was the 'Beyond.'”
And beyond it is. Forty unique spaces created by 50 local and international artists make up this one-of-a-kind museum.
A robot greeted me at the entrance. He’s not controlled by a remote puppeteer. He’s A.I. all the way. The reception is a large room with black and white retro-futuristic art covering the floors and walls—think giant oversized coloring book. It’s the first of countless photo ops tucked into Seismique’s grand halls. If you’re an Instagrammer, you’ll be in heaven. Every room is unique and has its own theme.
To comply with social distancing, you’re required to make a reservation for your visit and wear a mask throughout. Pick one of the three entrances and begin your journey. Since each section was created by a different artist, nothing is of the same style, but the creators did a nice job of segueing the various themes into a cohesive unit. Some are interactive. All are interesting.
It’s easy to miss some of the interactive opportunities. For example, there’s an app you can download that allows you to change things in several rooms. There’s a digital waterfall that you can control with your movements. There’re sounds that can be changed by turning some knobs. None of this is really explained and maybe that’s the point. Half the fun is figuring it out.
One of the first rooms I entered had a Japanese-inspired undersea mural on one wall and multi-colored lights on the other. As the lights change color, part of the pictures disappear and new ones emerge, yielding a new picture every few seconds. Aerica Raven Van Dorn, an artist from Austin, created it and calls it Europa. Changing art? Cool.
I rounded a corner and found myself in a space tunnel of flashing neon lights before entering a trippy fluorescent jungle. A cross between an Avatar film set and the back area of a 1970s Spencer Gifts, this black-light world is a psychedelic neon dream that would have indoor putt putt golf managers drooling. Best picture ever.
One of my favorite rooms consisted of four nonlinear, angled walls mounted with 200 white, disc-shaped screens with hidden projectors casting nature videos on them. Designed by MIT-trained designer Joshuah Jest, this installation—called Brainwasher—offers a catchy chill drum soundtrack synched with videos of forests, clouds, and molecular graphics that seemingly could calm anyone down. I could live here.
Then there’s the “ball” room, a mirrored Pepperland-esque installation with multicolored, illuminated LED balls on poles covering the floor and ceiling like an infinite sea of lollipops. Next I wandered into the largest room of the complex, The Hub, complete with brightly colored alien statues and flying saucers dripping continuous bubbles. There are several interactive pods where one can enter, flip switches, push buttons, and rotate dials to see if anything happens. It’s every kid’s dream; infinite moving parts that potentially can create a sound, turn on a light, or alter time and space as we know it.
Seismique is not for adults only—the adjoining room, Venus, had a hanging net playground, neon colored globe swings, and tunnels to crawl through. But it's all supersized, so anyone from 3 to 99 can take off their shoes and navigate their way through the net passages to the ceiling. Hey, you’re only a kid once … or twice.
In all, there are 40 rooms and concepts. At a relaxed pace, the experience might take you a couple hours to visit. It's a one-of-a-kind museum for Houston and refreshing to see—we've never had a venue for this kind of art on the Third Coast. In the near future, Seismique will be add more art spaces, host concerts and DJ events, and be available as a venue for private events.
Seismique is at 2306 S Texas 6. Tickets and information at seismique.com.