Rafael de Cárdenas designs a surreal pop-up maze and a prime selfie canvas in New York City
Mazes have always been mysterious, disorienting forms of architecture. Although less seen in its physical form today, this experiential archetype has been given a fresh, design-forward spin by Rafael de Cárdenas and his practice, Architecture At Large for Visionaire’s latest pop-up installation in New York.
Staged at Cadillac House, the automotive brand’s open-ended project space in Soho, Cárdenas has collaborated with the performance-based artist Sahra Motalebi to create a graphic, Op-Art-inspired weave of spaces. As visitors meander through four separate rooms, each enveloped in hypnotic black and white patterns, colourfully-tinted windows or monochromatic shades of yellow, Motalebi’s discordant, vocals-only score plays overhead to hammer home each environment’s bewildering effect.
‘Raf and I had many discussions about the maze as a perfect theatrical, performative machine. It was important that each of the vocal pieces reflect a stop inside the exhibition’s journey, with a sound score that is compelling—perhaps scary and absurd, but also at once narrative and abstract,’ Motalebi adds. ‘I used a lot of digital processing within the composition, which exposes the visitor to every pitch possible in the female voice—the lowest sub-tonal lows, inhumanly high screams, sibilance.’
Peppered around the installation are traces of modern life, such as medicine bottles, cleaning equipment and other ubiquities, presented in off-kilter contexts. There’s even a stylish hall-of-mirrors, complete with elegant sconce lighting, that adds to the labyrinth’s warped feel.
‘The maze is, on the surface, a dazzling and photogenic array of spaces but, upon closer inspection and attention, is also a lens through which to consider contemporary modes of operation,’ says Cárdenas, of the installation. ‘In the age of GPS-ubiquity, it offers the ever-elusive opportunity of getting lost, while counterpointing a prime selfie canvas with a soundtrack of laughter and shrieking.’