Sometimes art will hit you like a precision wrecking ball. Something like “Blooming” by Lisa Park is exactly that. It does exactly what it needs and wants to do in a carefully curated and largely structured experience. But “Weaving” by Cocolab is not that.
Truthfully, I cannot even imagine it working in another circumstance except the one I found myself in. On the last day you could still peruse the SXSW Art Program, looking for a completely different installation at the time, I finally looked at a door I had ignored many times over as I walked down the southern corridor of the Austin Convention Center. It was barely cracked open with a paper sign taped it. It, in essence, looked like nothing.
If not for the person I had seen just walking out, I wouldn’t have bothered peeking in. And if not for the odd flashes of light I saw inside, I would not have entered the room. And if not for my thoroughly tired, worn old man back and barking feet, I would not have lingered. And I could not have been more glad I did.
“Weaving” is massive. Gigantic, even. It looks like some sort of set piece they would have used during the filming of Mortal Engines to produce dynamic lighting setups. In a room that is usually a large meeting hall—picture a few hundred seated attendees for an A-list celebrity Q&A—stands a nearly 30-foot tall screen, shaped like an extravagant science fair triptych that spans the entirety of this 70-foot room. And on it is the most mesmerizing shifting pattern of designs.
Or at least a shocking pattern of designs. You rarely accidentally encounter something so large outside of, I dunno, King Kong wreaking havoc upon 1930s New York. I stood there for a moment and prepared to leave until I realized I was alone. In a festival where you are constantly surrounded by drunk or impatient or drunkenly impatient people, being alone is a rarity. I savored the moment.
But “Weaving” still didn’t land. I took some pictures, sent some texts, and just stood there. It was impressive, but it looked like any other high production light structure. About ten minutes had passed and I was done staring at this transforming set of colorful textile patterns and headed for the door. But the lone chair that hid behind the door convinced me to stay. After all, sitting is even rarer than a moment to yourself at SXSW.
So I sat. I sat and I stared. I didn’t move for what felt like 15 or so minutes as I moored myself upon this chair I moved to the dead center of the room. And slowly—eerily and almost magically—the piece began to take up my entire vision. And then my entire brain.
It’s impossible to say how meditative the experience becomes. The shapes and colors of Mexican artists washed over you, reflecting off the walls and ceilings and soaking into your vacant mind. Your thoughts begin to weave themselves between the luminescent strings that make up the installation, thumping along to the gentle hum of the music behind the transitions. I felt myself phase into the thing.
And then the door opened. No one came in. I’m sure the image presented before them—a single human sitting before a delirious, swirling monolith of abstract light—tickled their fight or flight instincts, and they fled. But the moment was gone, so I stood and I left and I went about my day.
For the rest of the festival, though, it was something I couldn’t stop thinking about. It was a little, quiet moment that I shared with no one but myself, and I could not have felt more fulfilled.