If it sounds strange now, it won’t for long. Amococo is about to become a Valley buzzword.
It’s the name of an inflatable labyrinth of pathways and chambers set to open March 11 at Mesa Arts Center, and city arts and culture director Cindy Ornstein predicts it’s going to be big.
For one thing, “It’s like walking inside a work of stained glass,” she says.
For another, nothing like it has ever been seen in the American Southwest.
Built in 2008 by a British group called Architects of Air, Amococo is the largest of four pneumatic, or air-operated, “luminaria” touring the globe. Its 86 domes and 71 pods span nearly 3,300 square feet and take 20 minutes to traverse. It will remain open through March 20 on MAC’s First Avenue parking lot.
From the outside, the luminarium resembles a shimmery, bubbled city out of some cartoonish version of “Arabian Nights.” From the inside, “It’s an immersion in color and light,” says Ornstein. “It’s almost unbelievable, looking at the exterior, that the colors could be what they are when you walk inside.”
Made of opaque plastic infused in places with color, Amococo’s interior is a constantly shifting environment of reflected light that changes according to the sun’s position in the sky and conditions such as cloud cover.
But don’t think of it as a giant bounce house. Instead of running, jumping or shouting, visitors stroll through Amococo to a soundtrack of ambient music and tuck themselves into alcoves, where, out of the way of foot traffic, they’re free to absorb the experience.
“It is very elemental. It is very basic, and I think that’s why people find it kind of a calming place to be. It is something that surprises people, the intensity and the luminosity that’s there. And that’s what I’m wanting — to bring people in touch with a phenomenon that will wake up their senses and a sense of wonder,” says Alan Parkinson, Amococo’s designer.
Tickets are $5 per person and include a slew of free performances on MAC’s Shadow Walk and admission to Mesa Contemporary Arts. Ornstein recommends ordering tickets in advance so that you may choose the day and time of your tour and avoid waiting longer than necessary in line.
The luminarium is accessible to wheelchairs. Parkinson says all of its tunnels and chambers remain in contact with the ground, so visitors have a solid, stable surface underfoot at all times.
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