By Susannah Sudborough
A hidden treasure can be found at HUBweek in downtown Boston. Inside an unassuming shipping container in the middle of the HUB set up at City Hall Plaza lies an interactive art exhibit full of brightly colored surprises.
A view of the exhibit as a whole.
Enter the Neon Dream Crystal Cave—and a small, dark wonderland lined in glowing neon stalactites, crystals, and creepy critters appears.
Sleeping neon bats hanging from the ceiling of the exhibit.
“It’s an aesthetic adventure through a surrealist crystal cave reimagined within this neon world where all these elements that may or may not exist in real life are brought to another level. Where they just glow and come right out at you in these dayglow colors,” said Morgan Grenier, one of three artists who created the exhibit.
A skull and bat painting on one side of the exhibit.
Grenier emphasized that the artists sought to make the unseen seen.
A wall featuring mushrooms and a peephole with a bird inside.
“In real life there are these connections that exist between fluorescence and elements of the natural world,” said Grenier. “Things like minerals, plants, insects, and fish. There are many throughout the natural world that if you had a blacklight with you, they would fluoresce under those lights. But since you’re not spelunking or diving with a blacklight, you’d never know.”
A fluorescent rat among neon plants.
As one moves through the exhibit, one cannot help but notice the subtle soundscape the artists chose that quietly embeds you into the environment. Grenier said she experimented with mixing sounds of an underwater river, bats, and other natural sounds to create the soundscape.
Inside the treasure chest is a pickaxes and a tablet that displays feed from a camera filling the person looking into the chest.
According to Grenier, the paper crystals were screen-printed by Helen Papanchalk, one of the other creators, and mounted on fabric. The stalactites were made of hardened foam.
Screen printed crystals hanging from the ceiling.
The exhibit has much to offer those who take the time to fully explore it. There are many obscured peepholes in the walls that reveal delightful surprises to those that look for them. Grenier said the artists noticed viewers tended to return to the exhibit with their friends, so they purposely included hidden art pieces for returning visitors to discover.
A chamber of light hidden in one of the walls.
A secret ant farm in one of the walls.
Visitors often noticed that parts of their clothing were glowing. Grenier explained that this effect was purposeful.
My shirt glowing from having reminants of laundry detergent.
“People walk in and they are immediately part of the installation because they themselves glow. People’s sports sneakers, white clothing, teeth, and hair— they all glow. So once you are in the space, you are part of the art and experiencing it as you walk through it,” said Grenier.
Visitors were captivated by the experience.
“The fluorescents were awesome,” said Justin Nally of Hull, Massachusetts. “There were lots of hidden treasures. I love how interactive it was. There was clearly a lot of heart and soul put into this.”
Neon Dream Crystal Cave was created by Morgan Grenier, Helen Papanchalk, and Andy Bablo. It can be viewed at HUBweek at Government Center in downtown Boston, MA through October 14.
Credit: Photos and video by Susannah Sudborough.