29 Rooms: Refinery29’s Creativity Funhouse

Refinery 29 is back again this year with their 29Rooms concept; 29 Rooms with (mostly) interactive installations sponsored by various artists and companies intertwined with messages ranging from art innovation to empowerment bathrooms. From painting directly on paper lanterns where the visitor can contribute their own piece of art to listening to your own dreams get turned into beautifully improvised songs, there’s something for everyone at 29 Rooms.

According to the site, this year’s theme is “Turn It Into Art” to celebrate the “transformative power of creativity”. Personally, I love the ability to experience what people deem as art. The arts have always been an exclusive experience where art sits behind invisible lines and implicit “Do Not Touch” signs. However, more and more companies/organizations are coming out with installations that invite the audience in to express and create.

I’ve also found that I find the most joy in interaction rather than observation. 29 Rooms had a variety of installations that invited interaction at varying levels…some through a photo, some that require your participation. All in all, a fun concept for almost anyone to enjoy depending on your level of comfort.

I got to experience this my friends this weekend for our 3-hour reservation. Below are a few of my favorite shots and a little about the corresponding rooms.

Originally published in September 2017.


1&2 | Become The Masterpiece

Friends being silly and playing with the props.

When you enter the experience, you’re first greeted with Alexa Meade’s Become the Masterpiece where you get to play with props and put on apparel and props that blend you into the art. In the description, this experience allows the audience to be the “artist in charge of their composition.”

Alexa Meade’s work is very much blending and blurring lines between the human being and art. Very trippy shots and her other work can be found on her insta.


3 | Erotica In Bloom

Erotica In Bloom Flowers

This fun room invites you in through fake flowers draped from the ceiling. In the center are 3 large upside down orchid pods that you step into with a screen that has erotic visuals. Additionally, there is a sensory experience that each flower envelopes you in.

In collaboration with Maisie Cousins, this room features flowers which have sexual symbolism. The experience is supposed to “take your senses on an erotic thrill ride”. My favorite part? The fact that it’s nearly impossible to take photos without someone getting into the frame because everyone loves flowers.

P.S., here’s a cool quick interview with Maisie Cousins on another solo exhibition she’s done. She’s really into multi-sensory experiences.


4 | The Art of Innovation

Art of Innovation

This was initially one of my least favorite pieces as I saw a line queue up for what seemed to be only meant as a “see but don’t touch” installation. It indeed became so where you couldn’t touch but I noticed something really fascinating with this piece. The light shines at various points which really made this piece shine. Visitors were invited for a photo op of this piece.

This piece was in collaboration with Jason Wu and Cadillac which you can learn more about here.


5 | The Womb

Lights when lying down.

In a large red tent-like structure people had the opportunity to put on headphones that played meditation poetry. The words on loop were:

Every single person deserves to take up space, to be bold, to love, and be loved in return. So, let your light be big, don’t shrink from it. Take this light and shine it in life’s dark places. Generate joy. channel it, and share it. Root for each other, grow with each other, and see each other. Leave this safe space, an agent of love.

As you listen to the words, there’s also this heavy throbbing heartbeat that plays. A heavily audio sensory experience that also has you in a very vulnerable, relaxed state of being on your back.

Learn more about Cleo Wade here on her website.


6 | The Beauty Carousel

Lined with shimmery pink and red-hued ribbons from the ceiling, Ulta Beauty created a carousel that you can ride on. Reminiscent of the nostalgic carnivals or even carousels by the park (for me, that would be the carousel near Yerba Buena Park in San Francisco), it’s a total showstopper and meant for a great photo op.


7 | Bright Future

Bright Future Neon Lights

First, I have a huge fascination with neon lights. There’s something super gorgeous and slightly ephemeral about neon lights… perhaps it’s my understanding that it doesn’t last forever. Or that it’s part of a dying industry.

Anyways, I’m not sure of the material but the lights and the way it’s created this huge installation here drew me in. I LOVED the large visuals of the IUD, birth control pills, condom, and phrases. People can have such varying reactions to these displays. I, for one, am all about treating your body well and that means having access to protecting yourself and others. While I didn’t get to fully interact with the whole structure, videos and such…I had a really fun time seeing people’s reactions to this.


8 | Chambers of Beauty

Chambers of Beauty

Also, everyone, have you met Andy? He’s a vision of beauty. Anyways, he’s a software engineer by day, my photography model by whenever we hang out because I need to practice photography and you’re here. I digress…

Clarins created this Chambers of Beauty room that allowed visitors to try out their new ageless serum and take fun photos in front of a wall of foliage… I mean…who doesn’t want to have a cool insta in front of a bunch of leaves?


9 | Art Heals

Art Heals

This was an awesome experience where visitors were invited to paint and draw on these large paper lanterns. In collaboration with Art Of Elysium, the premise of this experience is that “art can change your outlook, your mindset, and ultimate your life.” As a designer and someone in the creative field though lacking the artistic hand…I really appreciated the freedom and invitation to participate in this installation.

You can learn more about the cool things Art of Elysium is doing here.


13 | Show Face

Show Face

I absolutely loved this exhibit. Yes, that is my face. A lot of the rooms were very crowded in this area but we ended up in the Show Face room because of the lack of people. Everything was dark and visitors could stick their face through oval shaped holes to allow projects onto our faces…in a way, we become the art in itself.

Created in collaboration with Short Cuts, this experience allows you to be who you are by …”mixing technology with beauty…and watch as you become art.”


14 | Shred It

Shred It

In collaboration with Jake Gyllenhaal, this room invited visitors to write down whatever is weighing us down and manually shred it. The act of doing something like this helps us express ourselves and relinquishes what holds us back. I peeked over a few shoulders and saw a lot of silly things written down.


19 | Harmony

This beautiful piece took me by surprise. It actually spins ever-so-slowly so that when you catch a glimpse at the right angle, you see these two beautifully intertwined faces staring back at you.

In collaboration with Chloe x Halle and Benjamin Shine, this piece is about the bond “forged” between sisters.


21 | Light It Up

Symmetry Labs created this awesome piece that invited visitors to dance in front of a piece of equipment that translated the body’s dance movements to light. You could hear music blasting through this part of the warehouse and people having a great time seeing the lights shine and change throughout the night.

Did you know? Symmetry labs also had another installation recently at Burning Man.


24 | Hear Our Voice

The first time I saw an exhibit that invited visitors to write postcards was Ai Wei Wei’s @Large on Alcatraz. He had created postcards that asked visitors to write messages to political prisons in various parts of the world. This room had a similar concept but with messages for senators.

I love the idea of finding ways for people to be proactive in politics even at art shows. There’s always a way to weave creativity with action.


29 | Dreamer’s Den

Of all the rooms I experienced, this one probably struck the deepest chord with me. Kat Cunning did live interpretations via song of people’s dreams. Those who know me know that I have pretty vivid dreams and occasionally sleep paralysis. I didn’t dare write a dream down for her to interpret out into the world but watching her mind improvise some pretty screwed up dreams other people had was fascinating.

Her voice was incredible as well and sense of humor is so much aligned with mine. This, by far, was one of my most favorite experiences of all.


west&ease is a collection of stories, sounds, knowledge, visuals, and “creative” work. Support by becoming a patron or follow for more on Patreon.