Interactive art exhibit “Otherworld” open in East Columbus

A&E, News, Opinion

From monsters under your bed to demonic images on the wall to jellyfish under your feet, this new art exhibit, Otherworld, isn’t something to brush off.

“The best way to experience Otherworld is to experience it,” John Umland, the operations director of Otherworld, said. “It is something that’s hard to put into words.”

The experience, which Umland described as “a very large-scale, immersive, interactive art installation” is made up of over 40 rooms created by a team of over 100 artists from varying backgrounds.

Otherworld, located in east Columbus, was founded by Jordan Renda, who had a background in haunted attractions and escape rooms. He had a foundational idea for Otherworld and brought in the team to make it happen. “[Renda] …  got excited about taking it to the next step,” Umland said. 

And after a little over a year of planning, a year-and-a-half of building, this 25,000-square foot immersive art installation opened May 24 (and yes, there is a parking lot).

The experience is similar to that of a choose-your-own adventure story — there’s no right way to do it.

“For guests who are interested in learning more about the story behind the exhibit, lots of clues, story fragments, articles, interviews, and video diaries are spread throughout the exhibit,” Umland later said in an email. “For guests who are looking for some puzzles, there are a few pieces of the exhibit that have extra fun parts that can only be unlocked by collecting certain runes hidden throughout the exhibit.”

“The goal is that Otherworld feels like a fully immersive environment with lots of different ways to enjoy it,” he said.

And it truly is an immersive experience.

The moment that you walk through the doors of Otherworld, you’re transported to this sort of fantasy land mixed with haunted house mixed with sci-fi movie set. 

There are so many strange components within the installation, like crawling through tunnels to get to different rooms, interacting with lighting, and going inside a giant Narwhal-esque monster’s mouth, that truly make each room a wild experience.

While exploring, it’s hard to miss the attention to detail being taken by the team of artists. 

In one room, for example, there are 1920s rubber hose style characters (right) lit in sepia tone, but when a coffin in the room is opened, the lights go up and colors start to appear while blow-up flowers begin to inflate. 

There are even rooms with lights that appear on the floor below you as you walk and rooms with audio components, and a large, central open area that gives me some Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time vibes with a giant tree in the middle that then branches into all of these other strange rooms.

It’s as though each room you enter transports you into a different dream world, whether it’s something scary (like spiders all over the walls) or maybe something peaceful (like jellyfish on the floor).

The price is a little steep — $22 for general admission — but if you make the most out of all the different ways to experience Otherworld and truly take the time to absorb everything you’re experiencing,  you could get more bang for your buck.

Otherworld is open Thursday – Sunday and you can get tickets here.

Sydney Deibert

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