July 16, 2009

you better believe it!

Recently I visited the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Odditorium in Times Square, a place New Yorkers usually only visit when they're accompanying their visiting friends or family. Part of the reason I went was one attraction called the “Black Hole” – I was told “it makes you feel like you’re floating in space!”

This reminded me of an art installation my mom told me about after she visited the Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona. She described it as a dark room with mirrors with lights hanging from the ceiling – disorienting you and making you feel like you are suspended in nothingness with lights all around:

 You Who are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies, by Yayoi Kusama, 2006


Here’s a video of Fireflies on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielgreene/2554869071/

I really want to see it in person!


So anyway, back to the Black Hole at Ripley’s. Basically, it’s a darkened walkway with a huge drum rotating around it. Small lights are set into the drum, and as they rotate around you, your brain switches its perception of its surroundings – suddenly the drum seems to be standing still, and the walkway starts to spin around beneath your feet!

It’s a good thing the railings are there because the illusion is so effective that you quickly start falling and leaning to one side to keep your balance.

I went through the tunnel three times but I had to stop there because I started getting motion sickness. It took several minutes for the dizziness to go away, but I’d say it was worth it for the experience.

The following is a time-lapse photo, showing the paths of the lights as they swirl around the walkway. Otherwise the tunnel is too dark to photograph (or videotape!) What a beautiful picture!

(photo by Mary Altaffer, Associated Press / June 21, 2007)


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