When day-to-day life becomes too much to bear, why not escape to an alternate dimension? The Museum of Outdoor Arts, in collaboration with Denver-based immersive art company, Prismajic, transformed its galleries into a multimedia, immersive experience for its winter installation. Starting Friday, January 11, guests are invited to enter into a self-guided tour of the environment, the cosmos, and everything in between.

The entire fantasy-like installation is based on elements of the environment—earth, wind, fire, and water—with subtle hints to philosophical questions, the knowledge of mankind, and religious schools of thought. “When you walk into this installation, you’re in a different state of mind,” says Cynthia Madden Leitner, MOA president and executive director. Natura Obscura poses the question, “What’s your nature?” in hopes that guests will react to the sights, smells, and sounds and contemplate what nature means to them.

The installation spans five rooms in addition to the Time Machine and Cabinet of Curiosities and Impossibles, which is a part of the museum’s permanent exhibitions. The journey begins in the main atrium, aka the surreal forest. Here, everything glows. From woodland creatures to twinkling lights on the walls and ceiling, the details look like a scene from a science fiction movie.

Upon entry, guests are told to download the free Natura Obscura app which reveals augmented reality and hidden messages throughout the experience. In addition, guests are given a black flashlight which uncovers philosophical quotes and illustrations throughout the main gallery.

Photo by Heather Longway, courtesy of the Museum of Outdoor Arts

In the back of the main gallery, a swing hangs down from the ceiling and when sat on, the glowing clouds above generate a thunderstorm. According to Leitner, this is one of the many sensory digitized responses throughout the exhibition. Another one can be found in the Simulacra Vision gallery, designed by artists Chris Bagley and Nicole Banowetz. This room is filled with an inflatable forest while an interactive video records activity occurring in the room. “It’s great if people can catch their faces in it,” Bagley says. “It works all on its own. It’s challenging to [notice] because it looks like something that’s already made.”

Synthetic Nature in MOA’s whitebox gallery. Photo by Victoria Carodine

MOA and Prismajic collaborated with nearly 30 local artists to create Natura Obscura. While Bagley and Banowetz’s Simulacra Vision was their own creation, Synthetic Nature, which was designed by artists Tiffany Matheson, Travis Powell, and Ian Wagner, was inspired by artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrorsa traveling art installation that features a room lined with kaleidoscopic mirrors. “The whitebox gallery,” where Synthetic Nature is housed, “is more about light, projection, and mirrors,” Leitner says.

Although the experience is meant for all ages, Eric Jaenike, cofounder and president of Prismajic, says that adult visitors will get more from it. “It’s very kid-friendly, but from a visual standpoint and from a philosophical perspective, it’s much more for adults,” he says. “Many parts of the installation are easily accessible, but there’s also a lot more that is less obvious.”

According to Jaenike, the first half of the main gallery—from the entrance to the cloud swing—is all about the foundations of the human mind, while the second half, which begins after passing through a covered walkway, is symbolic of the higher orders of the mind, such as philosophy and religious order. “Symbolism is littered throughout,” Jaenike says. “There’s a lot going on in the exhibit.”

With so much to uncover, touch, smell, and feel, expect to spend about an hour-and-a-half wandering through each gallery—you won’t want to miss a single thing.

If you go: The installation is open starting January 11 and will run until April 28 at the Museum of Outdoor Arts, 1000 Englewood Pkwy. Tickets can be purchased here. Prices vary.

Victoria Carodine
Victoria Carodine
Victoria Carodine is a Denver-based writer and a former editor on 5280's digital team.