The Existential Void of the Pop-Up 'Experience'

By classifying these places as experiences, their creators seem to imply that something happens there. But what? The central experience delivered at all these places is one of waiting.

The aesthetic recalls the line for Disneyland's Splash Mountain, except in here, Fleetwood Mac was playing. One of the features of the Rosé Mansion is a fake gold throne that you can sit on while wearing a fake gold crown, an event akin to hanging out in the lobby of the New Jersey Medieval Times. Each of these experiences culminates in a ball pit -- filled with "marshmallows" at Candytopia, "champagne bubbles" at the Rosé Mansion, and blue-colored balls at Color Factory -- a feature pioneered by the McDonald's PlayPlace. [...]

In an interview with New York magazine last year, the millennial marketer behind the Museum of Ice Cream, Maryellis Bunn, compared her outfit favorably to real museums and also to Disneyland. "I love Disneyland," she said, but "it's not for today." I'm no Disney evangelist, but come on. Disneyland has a ride where you get to experience life as Mr. Toad as he is being sentenced to Hell. To Hell!

There aren't characters in these spaces. Instead there are young temp workers dressed in uniforms who are tasked with wiping down surfaces, chasing down balls that have escaped the pit and fostering cults of personality around the museum creators themselves. At the Museum of Ice Cream's Pint Shop, an employee in a sprinkle crown, pink feathered leg warmers and a lab coat calling himself "Slush" told an assembled crowd about how Ms. Bunn "experimented with 7,000 different combinations of vanilla" to perfect one of the museum's flavors. [...]

The central disappointment of these spaces is not that they are so narcissistic, but rather that they seem to have such a low view of the people who visit them. [...] Stalking through the colorful hallways of New York's "experiences," I felt like a shell of a person. It was as if I was witnessing the total erosion of meaning itself. And when I posted a selfie from the Rosé Mansion saying as much, all of my friends liked it.

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4 Responses:

  1. zipwut says:

    "Instagramming" is not experiencing.
    Nor is it a transitive verb.

  2. MattyJ says:

    The Museum of Ice Cream is also adept at spreading non-biodegradable, non-recyclable bits of plastic all over the street and into our century-old rainwater/sewage system.

    I think the real museum of ice cream is the Swensen's at Hyde and Union. And you can ride another museum (cable car) to get there.

  3. Eric says:

    It's spreading like a cancer -- a number of the newer installations at SFMOMA are obviously selfie bait.

  4. Paul says:

    +1 for correctly identifying Mr. Toad's Wild Ride as the greatest thing in any Disney park.

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