by Sukanya GargMay 25, 2020
STIR speaks with Jennifer Mosquera and Eric Jaenike, who co-founded Prismajic to create interactive and immersive art installations and experiences. Their last immersive installation Natura Obscura at the Museum of Outdoor Arts in Denver, Colorado, which combined art, digital technology and themes of nature and mysticism, was a huge success in 2019. Building on the same, they have created a new pop-up experience Shiki Dreams, which was launched in February this year. Combining art, sculpture, sound, light, augmented reality and digital technologies, the 1200 square foot installation takes the viewer inside the world of the spiritual yeti guide, Shiki, the leader of the Spirits of the Forest, exploring his dreams and wisdom. Perhaps, in these turbulent times of COVID-19, where nature has forced us to slow down, revisiting the wisdom of the forest and natural ways of living is pivotal. Shiki Dreams urges us to do the same consciously and subconsciously.
Sukanya Garg (SG): Where did the idea of Shiki – the yeti emerge from? Since the concept of the yeti is linked to shamanism, how have you been influenced by it?
Jennifer Mosquera (JM): I have been on this journey for almost 20 years and the creative muse presents these ideas and symbols. Some stay with me for a long time and some only for a short time. The yeti has been around for about 10 years. When he showed up I had no idea that he would become our ambassador. I just felt moved to keep on expressing him and his sense of wonder. It’s as magical for me as it is how perfectly it fits with the themes we are working with in regards to spirituality, shamanism, magic, and wonder.
SG: Could you talk in detail about some of the installations and imagery in the show explaining these symbolism?
JM and Eric Jaenike (EJ): Shiki Dreams is the second of a two-part exploration of the mythical world we created for Natura Obscura. Natura featured creatures called Spirits of the Forest, which were beings that represented different parts of the human psyche. Shiki was the first among equals and the leader of the Spirits. Shiki Dreams focuses on his world. The entry room is his real, physical world which contains his hut, fishing pond, etc. The remaining rooms explore his dream worlds, which is where his mind, heart, and sense of creativity wander, and where the light and dark play. We explore dark and light, the four seasons, creating the impossible, beauty, fear, transformation, and mystery all through the metaphor of dreams.
SG: What kind of materials, technical expertise and artistic support have been used to create this immersive experience?
JM and EJ: There were 25 artists who worked on the experience, so there’s a wide breadth of technical and artistic expertise. This includes musicians, composers, painters, sculptors, digital artists, multimedia artists, the list is extensive. Our use of materials is interesting in that it spans a huge range as well, everything from reclaimed wood to UV paint to cutting-edge augmented reality software. Perhaps the most interesting thing is how all these disparate skill sets and materials have come together in a cohesive, symbiotic way to create a truly magical experience.
SG: You explore the world of dreams of the spirit guide? What are these dreams?
JM and EJ: Shiki’s dreams are anchored in his real world, and elements of the real world provide the seeds that bloom into these dreams. For example, a claw in his hut gives birth to a dragon in his dream world, while mushrooms give birth to a magical room of light. There are four dream worlds - the waterfall room of light, the dark dragon, the cardboard city, and the haunted forest. These rooms, plus Shiki’s real world room, are tied together through common elements, just as common elements tend to tie together our own dream and real worlds.
SG: Since Shiki Dreams and Natura Obscura have common elements which are rooted in mysticism, nature and the world of dreams, how are two experiences different? What inspires you about these themes?
JM and EJ: It’s true that both experiences contain elements of mysticism, nature, and the world of dreams as they are both explorations of a single universe. Shiki Dreams is a continuation of the exploration begun with our first experience. Natura explored foundations and elements of the psyche and how those manifested in different philosophies and schools of thought. Shiki Dreams explores the subconscious and how dreams relate to it. At the physical level, we applied lessons from Natura Obscura that empowered us to create a more intimate, elegant, sophisticated and refined experience. We also built on lessons we learned about the most effective ways to use technology to make it as organic and seamless as possible, while simultaneously not forcing the guest to be tied to his or her device.
The exercise of art is about a search for a deeper understanding. Shiki emerged from the creative ether to guide us on this journey into these new worlds in the search for that understanding. It’s the concept of Shiki as guide that leads us as much as anything.
SG: What’s next?
JM and EJ: From the beginning our mission has been to harness the power of art to transform how people look at themselves and the world. What’s next for us is to continue that mission on a larger scale. Up to now the experiences we have built have only afforded us the opportunity to create single acts. Our goal is to create the entire play.