By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Most neuroscientists will tell you that there are just four stages of sleep, but at a new Fantasy Lab interactive adventure in Mexico City’s Plaza Metrópoli Shopping Mall in Colonia San Pedro de los Pinos, guests are invited to explore eight different stages of dreaming that go way beyond any visions your mind might conjure during its nightly rapid eye movement (REM) cycle of dormancy.
The creative brainchild of Mexican electronic visual effects artist Ricardo López Franco (who is also the founder of Fantasy Lab), Dreams is an hour-long immersive experience that guides you through eight (well, the first one is the snack bar lounge at the entrance, which, although graciously decorated with mind-bending works of art and quirky furnishings, hardly qualifies as a reflection of a dream state, so maybe just seven) chambers that surround you with visual, audio and even tactile sensations that imitate a dream reality.
The journey begins when guests (in groups of up to 12) are invited to enter the first chamber, a totally darkened room veiled in tiny suspended lights that create a star-like effect, interrupting any sense of physical orientation and setting the stage for the surreal adventure that will follow in the subsequent rooms.
The twinkling effect of the lights is intensified by head-to-toe mirrors that reflect their luster and illumination.
Guests are encouraged to find their way through the labyrinth of lights to the next room, a brightly lit, dizzying, black-and-white checkered hall with a Dali-esque upside-down bed suspended from the ceiling, a video of white and black sheep making their way across an “underhead” screen, a wall dripping with multihued spilled paint and a giant yellow dismembered giraffe.
On one wall, there is a huge electronic clock that transforms into a number playtime machine, and in the middle of the room, there is a cute little green gremlin stationed upon a big red table with a plate of pale blue cookies.
The next room is cross between the inside workings of a massive lava lamp and a psychedelic kaleidoscope projected onto a wall with infinity mirrors.
In between the dayglow of the polychromatic prism and the neon-hued lava lamp flow, there are images of a giant whale and patterned jellyfish to break up any chance of monotony.
Next comes the nightmare part of the Dreams experience, a darkened room with red pits of swirling blood and moribund hands scratching their way out of the whirlpool. (Don’t worry, they are all just electronic images projected on the floor and walls.)
Cross a spooky-(ish) bridge over the vortex of blood and find your way past a ghostly graveyard and you enter the fifth chamber, an abandoned dreamlike circus room with fragments of an animal cage, a semi-decapitated life-size ballerina marionette and a projection of a distorted lion figure interspersed with cartoon characters presented from behind a big red carpet.
Unlike in the other rooms, where you were asked to please not touch the sets, here you are invited to sit and become a part of the eerie scenario.
Room Six is a relaxed maze of pictures and mirrors, leading into the final chamber, a long, dimly lit room with comfortable seats centered around a projection of a golden-orange moon with fluffy white clouds hanging from above and a background soundtrack of Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.”
Here, you can either take a few minutes to soak in the topsy-turvy disarray of what you have just experienced, or continue your fanciful journey by pretending you are an astronaut witnessing outer space from your makeshift craft.
After a brief reprieve of the third movement of Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque, it is time to wake up and face the real world, which entails another stopover at the lounge.
What was the significance and objective of the Dreams experience?
López Franco wouldn’t say.
“I think that it is a personal experience that each person should interpret for themselves,” he told Pulse News Mexico whimsically during a press preview of the Dreams experience.
“Dreams is a unique visual, musical adventure, in which nothing is as it appears to be and our hopes and fears a set free in a world of symbols and metaphors. Perhaps the hidden message is for people to dare to live out their dreams.”
López Franco also said that Fantasy Lab is hoping to open a Dreams experience venue in the United States in 2021.
Dreams will open to the public starting Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Plaza Metrópoli Patriotismo Shopping Mall, and will offer experiences Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
There is a 340-peso admission fee and children under age 15 are not allowed to attend.